Seattle Pacific University lost a student over Veteran’s Day weekend.
According to several news sources, on Friday the 10th, third-year Tristan Kern was hiking in Olympic National Park on eroded rocky terrain when he fell. A search and rescue team was dispatched, but had to discontinue when it became too dark. Early the next morning the search was resumed, and Kern’s body was found soon after.
A flood of Facebook posts honoring Kern’s life followed news of his death, highlighting his caring nature, as well as his love for nature and the outdoors. Many also posted pictures, and shared their favorite memories of and moments with Kern.
Family member Douglas Welcome wrote on Facebook that Kern “passed doing what he loved most: exploring this beautiful planet on two feet when he couldn’t do it on a [bike].”
“Your smile could make the whole world smile back. When I try to describe why you made me laugh so much it doesn’t make sense to anyone,” ASSP Vice President of Campus Activities Garrett Berkey wrote in a Facebook post. “You taught me how to be a more kind and loving person. You showed me how to pedal places I didn’t know existed. I’m so glad to have been your friend. I know you are building a bike and riding somewhere. I miss you Tristan.”
In another post, reminiscing a camping trip from her first year, third-year Taylor Wall highlighted Kern’s “warm smile and genuine character.”
“Although Tristan and I weren’t that close, he was still intentional with each of our conversations and never failed to say hi while passing me on campus,” she wrote.
In light of Kern’s passing, University Chaplain Bo Lim encourages all who mourn his loss to seek support from others.
On Monday, Nov. 13, the Collegium in the Student Union Building was offered as an open space for people to commune. At 7 p.m., the doors opened to students, friends, faculty and staff to come together in remembrance of Kern.
There, staff from the Student Counseling Center, University Ministries, and the Office of Student Life were present, offering their ears or lending a shoulder. Gathered on couches, sitting around tables, many shared memories and held each other with tears in their eyes.
Second-year JC Wicklund will never forget walking past Kern’s room every morning, he said. Kern would be making coffee with the door wide open, and smile at anyone passing by.
“If you knew Tristan, you knew he had one of the most friendly and contagious smiles,” he explained. While believing it to be too soon to hold a formal service, Lim still wanted to provide an informal time of gathering for people to lean on each other and seek companionship.
Third-year Ray Lee was floor mates with Kern their first year. He remembers losing his charger and Kern being the first to offer an extra one.
“Whenever I had to tell him something, he was not only a good speaker but also a great listener,” Lee said.
The two had a macroeconomics class together, and Kern sat next to him in class. Whenever he made jokes or “joked around,” Kern was always there laughing with him, he said.
As Naivit Velazquez, a friend of Kern’s, wrote on Facebook, “You always treated everyone with respect and cared for those around you. You’ll be missed by a lot of people Tristan. Thank you for being such a good church buddy to all us, classmate, and friend.”
The Kern family is planning a memorial service, but the details have yet to be released.