Last Thursday, Hesston College students, staff, and members of Velazquez family gathered to remember and honor Justin Velazquez in a memorial service in Northlawn’s Helmuth Theater. Velazquez, who would have been a sophomore at Hesston, suddenly passed away Saturday morning, June 4 while playing baseball near his hometown in Puerto Rico.
Rob Ramseyer, Hesston College Athletic Director and Vice President of Student Development, opened the service.
“I think it’s important to know how loved Justin was,” Ramseyer said. “He was loved by his family, some of which are here today, he was loved by his team, he was by our community and many many others.”
And from listening to his friends’ tributes, Justin was easy to love. Classmates like Bryon Franz, remember Justin “as always smiling, one who would randomly burst out in laughter,” who “loved people and as a best friend.” Jace Robinson, a former teammate had similar memories.
“Justin was highly energetic, hated losing, but a guy who cared more for his team than himself.”
The service highlighted Justin’s positivity, joy and light that seemed to illuminate every relationship. Cheri Baer, a sophomore, touched on these themes with words from Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
At the end of the reading a tribute video featured pictures of Justin the way most knew him best – always smiling and having fun. As the music and video ended, campus pastor Todd Lehman offered a reflection that included the local news story that had aired in the memory of Justin.
Gabby Willis, Justin’s girlfriend talked about meeting Justin for the first time: they just smiled at each other. But soon, she said, she had fallen in love with him like no one before.
Bailyn Piecewicz, a friend of Justin, followed Willis. Piecewicz talked about how her friendship with Justin being like family and all the fun that he brought to her life. Collin Loutensock, a 2016 graduate, was the last to speak. He mentioned how Justin was an excellent teammate but even better friend. After Loutensock spoke the room fell quiet. Coach Kyle Howell gave the closing and spoke about some things Justin had taught him and how he was one of the most energetic kids ever. After Howell’s closing prayer a line formed as people leaving the service stopped to hug Gabby and Justin’s family.