Nicholas Scherling never realized his dream of joining the Army, but Friday he was buried with a military-style salute of sorts - delivered unwittingly by his classmates.
Several white balloons released by friends of the Post Falls Middle School seventh-grader during a brief grave-side ceremony popped on the tall pines above. The sound of the breaking balloons rang out over the Post Falls Cemetery lawn much like a 21-gun salute.
“He always wanted to be in the military,” said one man as the remaining balloons floated skyward.
Scherling’s classmates were among the 500 people who said their goodbyes to the 13-year-old who died Monday after being struck by a pickup whose driver had been drinking. Rescuers who responded to the accident along Seltice Way, former grade-school teachers and the school district resource police officer also attended.
“Nick was loved by a lot of people and touched a lot of people,” Mark Scherling, the boy’s father, told mourners. “I am honored to be his dad.”
Many of Scherling’s classmates wiped away tears and leaned on each other for support through much of the service. Memories flashed through their minds as three of his favorite songs played softly on the sound system of the packed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel and gymnasium.
“I know he touched a lot of the kids and my heart goes out to them,” Mark Scherling said.
Those who spoke during the service remembered the boy as adventurous, free-spirited and able to make anybody laugh. His smile was contagious, they said.
Pastor Art Cosgrove talked about how Scherling swung excitedly on a rope swing to coax his older sister to climb high into a backyard tree to meet him. Once there, Scherling hopped from his lofty perch and left his sister yelling for help.
“All the time Nick was smiling at his accomplishment,” Cosgrove said.
Stories about a 4-year-old Scherling crashing a four-wheeled motorcycle into a fence, his fondness for scaring his mother at evening church functions by turning out the lights and his reputation as a “lady’s man” also drew giggles.
After releasing the balloons, friends from school spoke fondly of his goofy impressions of actor Jim Carey, his warm heart and booming choir voice.
“We only had one other deep voice,” said Adam Durflinger, who used to sing in the school choir with Scherling. “It was me and Nick and all the girls. Now it’s really hard to sing without him.”
Much of the school week was spent writing letters and poems, drawing pictures and remembering Scherling, students said.
Krystal Dane held a collection of poems placed in a binder she planned to give to Scherling’s family.
Eighth-graders Melissa Walker and Shawnte Cornett wore silver tears painted on their cheeks all week at school. The two said they have talked with friends about starting a Students Against Drunken Driving group at their school.
“We’ve just been crying a lot the last couple of days,” Walker said. “It was just a way for us to show we cared.”
Mark Scherling asked that his son’s death serve as a reminder of how short life can be.
“If you remember one thing make sure you hug your children and your friends and even your enemies,” Mark Scherling said. “You never know when you’re going to not be able to hug them.”
Scherling’s family also asked people not to hold the woman who is accused of killing Nick in ill regard. Find some compassion for her, they urged.
Nick would have, Cosgrove said.
“He was a great friend,” Cosgrove remembered Mark Scherling telling him during a conversation earlier this week. “In fact, he was my best friend. He was outgoing and would help anybody. He never held a grudge.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (2 Color)
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