When his tent was about to blow away by 90-mile-per-hour winds in 6-degree weather, he laughed. When her best friend’s mother was scolding her best friend and slapping her with a pair of socks, she laughed.
Do they sound crazy?
Maybe a little.
But they were best friends, who always made the best out of the worst; who will be remembered for always laughing, always smiling, and always being exactly who they were, and nobody else.
Caleb Kinney and Samantha Forrest were two Castleton students; Kinney graduated last year 2013 and Forrest was a senior this year studying exercise science.
Forrest and Kinney both died Saturday, March 19, along with their friend Andrew Laramie, 26, when they struck a tree on Drake road.
And although he will no longer be seen on the rock-climbing wall, or she excitedly flailing her arms around campus or Fishtail Tavern, friends and family say their presence will always be with us.
President Dave Wolk hosted Forrest’s funeral at his home Thursday morning. Junior Jake Grinbergs beautifully played “I Giorni,” by Ludovico Einaudi as Wolk’s house filled with family, friends, students, professors, faculty, staff, and Forrest’s dachshund, Lena.
“Like you, I am horribly sad. Like you, I loved Samm and felt like she was family. This home was a home for Samm, who we trusted with our three dogs and the entire place whenever we were away … I think this was one of Samm’s many second homes. How many of you were lucky enough to have Samm visit or stay at your house? She was a godsend to us and to all of you,” Wolk said in his eulogy.
Samm had good vibes. She always told her family and friends that they needed to have good vibes so she could vibe with them. Yes, the little hippie girl they loved. She had good vibes. Samm was the rebel child. She told me a few years ago she added an “m” to her name. OK, so Samm now had two “m” s. The free spirit. It never changed in her too-short life.”
Brave friends also got up to say a few words about Forrest.
Graduate Cassandra Murphy spoke first.
“She had the most carefree attitude out of anyone that I knew. She did not care what others had to say or think of her. I remember on several occasions telling her that her clothes didn’t match,” she said as people laughed knowing that was a “Sam thing to do.”
Jessie Spaulding, another Castleton graduate of 2014 and best friend, spoke beautifully and managed to say, “I’m still trying to figure out how to live without such a big part of my life.” She cracked a joke at the end, however, saying, “It snowed today because Sam wanted to have the last word,” as laughter filled the room again.
Even though Forrest and Kinney aren’t physically with us, friends say they still have the ability to make the best out of the worst.
“The hardest situations he would always laugh. Not as an insult, but from the pure enjoyment of that challenge and through that adventure was, ‘a wonderful opportunity.’ It always struck a chord with me,” said professor Steven Lulek about Kinney. Lulek and Kinney had more than a professor-student relationship; they had a friendship.
Lulek first met Kinney through his outdoor classes, but it was his mountaineering class that truly bonded them.
“It affected him in such a way that after the class, he would literally beg me each year to come back and assist, to lead the class, for no pay, nothing, but to help guide and teach, to grab that connection to this powerful world that we live in. He would beg me,” Lulek said.
And Kinney didn’t have to beg much.
He explained how this year Kinney was gone on vacation in Colorado the same time as the trip to Smugglers Notch was scheduled. Kinney contacted Lulek to see if there was anything he could do to make the trip and Lulek simply replied, “I’ll move the trip so you can be with us.”
Lulek shared the story about last year at Smugglers Notch, the evening was approaching and wind was picking up. As it turned dark, they all went to their tents to bunker down. Somewhere around midnight, the wind was picking up to 60- to 90-mile-per-hour gusts.
“You could hear trains whipping outside of our tents!” Lulek said. And then all of a sudden he heard, “My tent is blowing away! My frame broke!”
It was Kinney.
“Caleb is out trying to fix his tent hanging onto one side of it, trying to hang onto the pole, getting duct tape out of his bag, puts it back together and is laughing the whole time about this adventure. His hands are freezing and he’s like, ‘my hands are freezing, but this is so funny!’” Lulek said laughing as if it was happening again.
“He’s enjoying the adventure. This catastrophe for most people was to him, this beautiful moment.”
Bryanna Allen-Rickstad, Kinney’s ex girlfriend of almost five years, described Kinney’s laugh as a “giggly, tickle-me-Elmo” kind of laugh. “It was show-stopping, he was constantly laughing,” Rickstad said.
Forrest shared that same happy-go-lucky quality.
Shannon Bartlett, another one of Forrest’s many best friends, shared a story about how she was getting scolded by her mother, getting slapped by a pair of socks, and Forrest found it hysterical.
“Samm’s personality could not be beat,” Bartlett said.
Forrest signed up for Lulek’s outdoor rock-climbing class this semester, and even though he did not get to know her as well as he did Kinney, he got an impression of her.
“I didn’t know Samm other than she just signed up for my rock climbing class. But I believe that I got a picture of Samm in that one interview because it’s how she was. It’s how she carried herself. Without knowing anything about her, my first impression of Samm was that she was a gentle, kind, incredible soul that would help anybody. And what I’m hearing is, that’s Samm,” Lulek said.
“It was fascinating. She said, ‘I’m Caleb’s ex,’ that’s how she described herself. And I said, ‘Oh I’m sorry…’ and she said, ‘oh no its ok, we are still friends!’ They were ex’es, but there was such a connection of their souls, that they’re still friends. That doesn’t happen very often. They had that pure soul connection.”
Allen-Rickstad is not at peace with Kinney’s loss yet, but hopes one day she can remember the good and not the sad.
“I want to get to the point where I can think of him putting chocolate chips in his cereal, you know? The fun stuff,” she said.