Elijah Verne passed away September, 2018. During his life Eli was many things, a student, a golfer, and a member of the swim team. He was also known for putting smiles on the faces of those around him and for challenging people to be kind and empathetic. He was very much loved by his teachers, classmates family and friends.
Eli’s funeral was beautiful. At the service, people remembered Eli for his love of nature and his wild spirit.
His mother told a story about how sweet and kind Eli was to another child. It had been the other child’s first time at the movies.
In her own words, “This was Eli, always considerate of someone else, always careing,” said Jenna Verne.
Eli’s grandfather, Michael Edwards, also said some touching words while describing a conversation he once had with Eli about the army.
“I would of been lucky to have had you in my command. Being a soldier is not all about yelling or screaming or acting tough, like how you see in movies. It’s about caring and having that compassion for others,” Edwards said.
Eli touched many people and fellow classmates’ hearts. Rebecca Layton, a Loy Norrix teacher, who became close to Eli’s sister, Naomi, says her first time meeting Eli was through Naomi.
“She introduced me to Eli when he first came here as a freshman, and was like this is my baby brother,” said Layton.
Eli was a very intellectual person, who loved to educate anyone and everyone. He would say fun little facts about the smallest things to anyone who would listen. Layton was one of the many people who experienced this wonderful trait first-hand.
Layton shared one of her stories about Eli, “Most of the kids around here know I am scared of the creature [bearded dragon] in Ms. Weavers room, like terrified, and I walked into the room one day and Eli was holding the creature, and I said something about keeping the creature away from me because it was on Eli’s shoulder.” Layton continued, “And he stalked me around the room, and he started telling me all these random facts about dragons, like random stories and facts about this dragon until I had to admit it was at least interesting, and then he was like, ‘Okay, now you have to touch the dragon.’ At first I just kind of poked it and Eli was like, ‘Nope, nope. You have to do this,’ and he made me go up and down the scales so I could feel what it was like. It was just who he was. It was something he was really passionate about. It bothered him that I disliked this thing I didn’t really know about. He wanted me to know about it.”
Layton also fondly remembers Eli’s infectious laughter. Those who knew him agree that Eli saw much of the good in life, choosing to seek out positivity.
“He had a good sense of humor, and he laughed so hard when I actually did it [pet the bearded dragon], and he had this laugh that was pure joy like when he laughed. It was like every part of him was laughing. It was nothing held back. He didn’t try to rein any part of himself in. When he was happy it was pure happiness,” said Layton.
Elijah was a very accomplished person and team member. One of the teams he was a part of the Loy Norrix golf team. He ended up making varsity half-way through the season last year.
“He was a little old man in the golf course. He was always looking for golf balls and enjoyed some of the subtle aspects of the game,” said Jay Peterson, Loy Norrix history teacher and golf coach.
“He would watch YouTube videos about snakes for hours. He would try to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, when I get a snake here is what it will do, and it eats the mouse whole.’ I was like, ‘Eli, I don’t want to know this stuff,’” said his sister Naomi.
Eli finally got the snake he wanted when he got a job at Cafe ‘36 at Sawall Health Foods. With the money Eli saved up, he was able to pay for a four and a half foot Boa Python pet snake. He would ride around his neighborhood with the snake and let any kid who wanted to touch the snake, pet him. When it was raining, you could catch Eli and his little sister outside trying to save the worms from being run over by his mother. Eli also had a pet dog, which he received as a gift for his bar mitzvah.
Eli loved to invent things and wanted to be an engineer. He would make small wooden doll furniture for his grandmother and other projects in the wood workshop at his house. With just using rubber band batteries, he would turn his Lego structures into electronic buildings. When it came to scaring his sisters, Eli would go all out. He would put a plastic Frankenstein head that was motion-sensored in Naomi’s bedroom.
Even now that Eli is no longer with us, he continues to teach and impact the lives of others.
Peterson reflected, “It was just the way he said ‘friend’ that always stuck with me, and it just made me realize, especially now with his passing just how important that word is and how much friendship meant to him. I think the thing that will live on in me when it comes to Eli is never to take friendship for granted and to always try to pursue those types of relationships.”