Hundreds remember Keegan and Stephen

Shannon Litz / Nevada AppealStephen Anderson's father, Chris, hugs Skyler Guimont during the memorial service for Stephen Anderson and Keegan Aiazzi at Carson High School on Saturday.

Shannon Litz / Nevada AppealStephen Anderson's father, Chris, hugs Skyler Guimont during the memorial service for Stephen Anderson and Keegan Aiazzi at Carson High School on Saturday.

About two weeks ago, Chris Anderson and his wife, Thea, sat down with their son Stephen to talk about his wishes to become an organ donor.

His son was 16 and had come home frustrated after learning he was too young to claim it on his driver's license.

"His mom assured him when the time came that we would make sure that would happen," said Chris Anderson, addressing the hundreds of people who gathered inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday to celebrate his son's life. "Little did we know it would be such a short time."

His anecdote was one of many shared on Saturday at his son's funeral and at a separate memorial service inside the Carson High School gymnasium where hundreds came to remember the lives of Stephen Anderson, 16, and Keegan Aiazzi, 17, two well-liked students who died during a scuba diving trip on April 9 in Monterey, Calif.

During the memorial service for Anderson and Aiazzi, fellow teammates from the football team remembered their fallen friends.

Connor Beattie said he first met Aiazzi while playing Pop Warner football and described him as someone who could take on the entire world - a characteristic he admired.

"I always just felt like Keegan was a 6 foot 10, 280 pound beast trapped in a 5 foot 8, 140-pound body," Beattie said. "That's just the kind of kid he was. His heart truly can't be equaled."

Beattie said he hoped people would celebrate the lives of Aiazzi and Anderson instead of dwell on the loss.

"They lived beautiful lives," he said. "Even though it was a short 16 to 17 years, it was a full 16 to 17 years."

It was a sentiment shared by their coach, Blair Roman.

"I ask my seniors every season, our whole coaching staff does, what legacy they'll leave with the school," Roman said. "I think we agree that Stephen's and Keegan's legacy will never end and we should embrace that as one of the positive outcomes of this tragedy."

He added, "We will honor these boys, we will remember them. But most importantly we will try in our own way to live our lives more like them."

"God's going to take care of them and keep them safe," Teammate and classmate Skyler Guimont said. "They're going to watch over us while we're out on the field next year."

Pastor James Parker said the news of the boys' deaths came as a kick in the gut when he learned of it last week.

"We weren't really designed to understand death, it doesn't make sense," he said, adding, "The impact of these two young men on your lives is something that you've got to measure out, something that you have to hang on to."

During the ceremony inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a fire truck ran its sirens as a tribute as it drove past the church.

Inside, Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who called himself an honorary uncle to Stephen Anderson, read a letter from the former chaplain of the U.S. House, Daniel Coughlin, who retired last week and wrote a letter to Thea Anderson as his final act.

"My heart goes out to all, but especially you as a mother who lost her child," said Heller, reading from the letter.

Thea Anderson said her son and Keegan were the best of friends. Whenever Keegan came over to visit Stephen, he would know where to get food in the house, she said.

"Stephen never put his bowl away, never, ever," Thea said. "And guess what, Keegan always did."

Sara Anderson, Stephen's sister, said she was amazed to see hundreds of faces at her brother's funeral.

"It's so nice to see how many lives he touched," she said. "It's so nice to know that people knew my baby brother and knew how much he meant to me. He was my world. He was my best friend."

Chris Anderson remembered the trip he took with his son to Alaska, giving them a chance to enjoy each other's company on their way north.

"We were good hunting buddies, but we weren't very good hunters," Anderson said. "I think the only thing Stephen and I ever brought home from a hunting trip was a really good story."

With his son's casket nearby, Anderson said Stephen aspired to become a firefighter and fly helicopters.

"I wish that was a dream he could have fulfilled and I know that he's got bigger and better things to do," Anderson said.

He added, "I'll miss his smile, but he's smiling down on us right now."e


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