For Cedaredge, a tough reach
School, town try to absorb death of student-athlete
Trees tower over Cedaredge’s downtown park, secured by roots that plunge deep into the earth.
In that same vein, generations of families have set down roots in this town of about 2,300 people located on the southern flanks of Grand Mesa.
So, it was no surprise that residents collectively drew a pained breath when news spread quickly Sunday on social websites and in local conversations that three high school students had been flown to a Denver hospital because of carbon-monoxide poisoning.
One of the three teenage boys, Reid Gates, a 17-year-old senior and a standout athlete in three sports, died Monday.
Judging from the devastated looks on students’ faces in the halls of the small school of about 250 students Wednesday, the mourning is just beginning.
Gates’ photo had been slated to grace a prized spot on a wall in the school’s cafeteria following his graduation — his name and smiling face living on with the decades of all-state athletes who came before him. Yet because of his untimely death, his photo will be placed there soon, school officials said.
“Reid knew when to be serious and when to be funny. Before football games he was serious and in the zone,” said his friend and fellow football player, Kyle Ward. “During the week was one of the best times to be around him.”
Understandably looking quite shell-shocked, Ward and seven other senior football players granted interviews to the media Wednesday. Players decided not to cancel their Friday game. On 2 p.m. Saturday, the public is invited to a memorial service for Gates at the high school.
Gates was with his two friends, also Cedaredge High School athletes, Aaron Henrie and Tyler Cooper, in a camper in a shed when the three teens unknowingly were exposed to the odorless, colorless gas. Cooper and Henrie still are hospitalized in Denver after the weekend accident. Henrie reportedly is in critical condition and Cooper is in good condition.
“I just can’t say enough about those three kids. Student-athletes, yes, but just nice people,” said Kevin Dunbar, a science teacher, head basketball coach and assistant football coach at the high school.
Dunbar said Gates’ death has triggered recollections of other traumas that students have endured, such as the death of another student while Gates’ class was in middle school.
Counselors have been on hand at the school since the accident. Some students have opted to stay in Denver to be alongside Cooper and Henrie as they recover. Students in schools not part of the district have been donning Cedaredge’s school colors of blue and white in a show of solidarity, residents said.
In the small school atmosphere, “You know if you see something that’s not right,” Dunbar said, adding teachers are keeping an eye out for the students’ well-being.
Gates was the Class 3A high jump state champion in 2012. He played running back and safety last year when the Bruins won the Class 1A state football championship. Gates was in the running to be the class valedictorian, and he was considering following in his parents’ path and applying to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“Anything he did, he did it to best of his abilities,” Dunbar said of Gates.
There’s little question Gates’ death has caused ripples of grief in the town renowned for its acres of high-elevation apple orchards.
Cedaredge resident Lisa Gilmore, a mother of six children, didn’t personally know Gates and his family, or Henrie and Cooper. She learned on Facebook on Monday that Gates had died.
“It’s one thing when it’s a big city, but it’s another when it’s a small community,” she said. “It’s been a good wake-up call that any day with all my family is a good day. It’s a whole other round of blessings.”