The life of Ernie Eichhorn Jr. was remembered Sunday in front of friends and family at the Jacob Smith House in Lacey.
It wasn’t all tears and hugs about a dearly missed family member. Attendees also learned that Ernie’s corneas will help two women in North Carolina regain their sight.
Sunday’s gathering was organized by a Seattle-based group called SightLife. The organization and its global partners provided nearly 24,600 corneas for transplant in 2015, according to information distributed at the gathering.
But the focus Sunday was on Ernie, 34, who will be remembered with a “floragraph” during the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 2. His image, along with 59 other people, will be affixed to a “Teammates in Life” parade float. Those in attendance Sunday were asked to help decorate the floragraph. In this case, they darkened one eyebrow with some coffee grounds.
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Ernie was killed in a car crash in September 2015 near McCleary.
Before decorating, family members stood to remember Ernie, including his father, Ernie Eichhorn Sr. The elder Eichhorn struggled with his emotions, but finally composed himself to recall a trip to Alaska with his son.
Not far from Glacier National Park, the two had gone whitewater rafting and ended up in a lake full of icebergs. His father flew out of the area first, with Ernie set to catch a later flight. But he missed his plane. Not to worry, Ernie fell in with a Native American tribe in the area and wound up spending the night with them, seemingly unafraid of the grizzly bears in the area.
“That was his adventure,” his father said.
His longtime partner, Megan Trubshaw, and his mother, Julie, also remembered Ernie.
He was born and raised in Walla Walla, moving to Lacey in 2009. He was sensitive, kind, quiet, and loved being outdoors and working with his hands. He was a landscape designer, Megan said.
He also liked to hike, and both of them were certified scuba divers, she said. They traveled a lot and first met in Alaska, where they both worked summer jobs.
“He was a good kid,” his father said Sunday.