1,500 Pack Teen's Funeral
By Dave Forster
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
About 1,500 friends, relatives and neighbors listened Tuesday as Steve Eicholtz talked to his son.
“You have touched the hearts and minds of so many, so many, in so few years.” Eicholtz said, standing beside the casket of his son, Tyler.
“Your smile and quick wit may have left your body, but you will never, ever leave the minds of the people that you knew.”
Tyler Eicholtz, an 18-year-old senior at Fargo North High School, died last Wednesday when he and his snowmobile plunged through the ice on the Red River south of Fargo. His body was found Friday, ending a three-day search in which workers drilled 700 holes through the ice downstream of the accident.
Fargo North students who wished to attend Tyler’s Tuesday funeral were let out at noon, an hour before the service began at north Fargo’s Hope Lutheran Church. Hundreds came, including Nick Chatham, who spoke for a few minutes about the friend who introduced him to hunting.
Chatham and Eicholtz would often stay up all night before a big hunt, he said, because they so were eager to get an early start. He also recalled Eicholtz’s good humor and his endless work ethic.
“(Tyler would say), ‘This is how you do it — like a man,’ ” Chatham said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Steve Eicholtz then took the microphone and, fighting back tears, said how thankful he was for the time he had with Tyler, whether it was spent hunting, playing baseball or sitting on the couch watching football.
Beside relatives and close friends, players from the Fargo North Spartan baseball team sat near the front of the church. Tyler pitched and played third base for the team, and his teammates were honorary pallbearers.
The overflow crowd listened intently through the hour-long service as the Rev. Charles Olmstead acknowledged the pain Tyler’s death brought to so many.
“How many of us have been in those situations where a few feet or a matter of seconds have kept tragedy from entering into our lives and the lives of those we love?” Olmstead asked.
“Tyler’s death is just one of those terrible situations — senseless, unfair, excruciating pain.”
Olmstead exhorted those assembled to not allow Tyler’s tragedy to define them. As painful as it is, he said, they must keep hope in God and continue honoring Tyler with their memory and prayers.
“Death does not have the final word here today,” he said. “God does.”
Before closing, Olmstead praised the community for coming together to support the Eicholtz family in its time of need. He asked the hundreds assembled to continue watching out for one another.
“Honor Tyler’s memory,” Olmstead said. “Listen to those calls for help and respond to them.”
Readers can reach
Forum reporter Dave Forster
at (701) 241-5538