A bond was forged between mother and son Dec. 17, 1985, when Lisa Gill first locked eyes on her son, Johnathan, a "handsome, smiling young lad." Charmed by his bright eyes and vibrant smile, it was a connection that didn't dull during the next 20 years.
Through broken tears, she bid farewell to her son Friday afternoon during an emotional "celebration of life," dedicated to the memory of the fallen young man.
"You have taught us all how precious life is. ... We will always keep the memory of you in a special place in our hearts," she said before about 30 friends and family at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 in Craig.
Johnathan Gill died earlier this month. Authorities found his body on Nov. 6, five days after he was reported missing, in a pond near the Yampa River and Loudy-Simpson Park. An autopsy revealed that he died from asphyxiation due to drowning.
Lisa Gill said Friday that her son gravitated toward people and they toward him. He would often ask people if they liked the shirt he was wearing, she said.
"And if they did, he would offer it to them right off his back," his mother said. "Johnathan loved to help people."
It's with memories similar to these that people ranging from immediate family to next-door neighbors remembered Gill. They described a moral, talented, outgoing youth, who was handy at fixing things and loved the outdoors and working on cars.
"I'll always miss him," his brother, Daniel Gill said. "Someday I'll get to see him again in heaven."
Lisa Gill said Johnathan had grown close with his stepfather, Steve Heafner, and the two spent many hours reading the Bible, extracting passages and discussing its meaning.
"We're all going to miss him very much," Heafner said.
Another brother, Matt Gill, was overcome with emotion. He said his brother held the value of family in the highest esteem, and would go out of his way to help anyone in need.
Family friend Jennifer Manns read a poem she wrote about Johnathan Gill when news of his death was announced. The poem is titled "Among the Angels."
Neil Folks, the chaplain at Moffat County Jail, conducted the service. He quoted the Bible passage Matthew 5:4 in an effort to comfort those mourning the loss.
"Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted," Folks said. He added that those who leave this world are off to a better place -- they "return to the source of all being," the chaplain said.
"We thank Johnathan for the love and friendship that he gave us," he said. "He was a gift to the world."
The chaplain said memories and hope can carry those grieving through difficult hours.
"Windows of hope are always there for us to look out," he said.
"Ask now that we be even closer to each other," Folks said. "Pledge that we will not minimize this loss ... nor be overwhelmed by it."
Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext.210, or email@example.com.