A slick hockey player.
A budding guitarist and hunter.
A young man already making his mark in the work world.
An easygoing friend to seemingly everyone he met.
A son who made his parents proud.
Sean Thieleman was all of those things and more to people in Castor and beyond.
He was Kayl Weseen’s best friend “for as long as I can remember,” Weseen, 16, said this week.
“Sean had the best attitude I’ve ever seen in a kid. He had just the greatest attitude ever. He definitely wanted to live life to the fullest.
“I hung out with him every day, pretty much. We did fun stuff all the time. There was never a dull moment with Sean.”
Thieleman died after an accident on Highway 599, east of Castor, last Friday night. He was 16.
His funeral is scheduled for this Friday at 2 p.m. at the Castor community hall.
The community has rallied behind his family, including parents Don and Donna and sister Michelle, and his friends from Gus Wetter School and elsewhere.
Thieleman’s death tempered last Saturday’s convocation exercises and awards night at Gus Wetter, where he was a Grade 11 student.
Thieleman was remembered in a moment of silence at the school, where 2013 valedictorian Dallyn Pawsey began his speech with memories of a popular, smiling student.
“You were one of the best young men that I was able to get to know over the past couple of years,” Pawsey said in a tribute to Thieleman.
“Whether it was referee road trips to Coronation or hockey games all over central Alberta, I was pleased to have gotten to know such a fine young man. You always made the most of the moment and brought out the best in those around you, whether it was a quick one-liner to lighten the mood or simply the unforgettable ear-to-ear smile that we’ve all come to know so well.
“I know you’re watching over us tonight, bud. It’s a loss that no one should have to bear and surely one that we will never forget. We miss you already. Rest in peace, Sean, and the united condolences of the grad class of 2013 go out to his family and friends.”
Thieleman had a wide circle of friends throughout central Alberta, partly because he played with minor hockey teams in Castor, Coronation, Killam and Stettler. He had just begun the new season with the Stettler midget B club.
In sports and social settings, “he was a guy that every-body knew,” said Coronation student Zeke Leuck, who was one of Thieleman’s teammates for three years with peewee, bantam and midget teams in Castor and Coronation. “He was always the one that would stop and talk to everybody.”
Leuck, 16, recalled Thieleman chatted with him about hockey just the weekend before his death.
“He was a real easygoing and nice kid,” Leuck said. “A real good hockey player, too. He wasn’t an overly big kid, but he skated fast and had a hard shot.”
Weseen’s close friendship with Thieleman extended to music.
“He played guitar and I played drums, so he would come over all the time after school on Fridays and we’d jam and stuff,” Weseen said. “It was always a good time.
“This year, he worked quite a bit (in the community) and only had one class, but still it was good seeing him in the parking lot, after lunch, when he came back to the school.”
Another one of his close friends, classmate Benjamin Doolaege, said Thieleman would usually arrive at school in style.
Without him in the classroom this week, “it was quite quiet and lonely almost,” Doolaege said Monday night.
“We were waiting for Sean to walk through that door, with that big grin on his face when he wore his coveralls in for social class after lunch.
“These green coveralls would be dirty, his face would be dirty, and he’d walk in so proud. He was working, you know. He was really enjoying his work.”
Thieleman parlayed a summer job with the County of Paintearth into a regular gig this fall, and he also did mechanical work at Jordahl Enterprises as part of the school’s registered apprenticeship program.
“He was a dedicated, hard worker that … didn’t stand around, everybody liked him, and he had a pleasant smile,” his mother said.
“He put his heart and soul into being a reliable worker who went all out. He was a true friend to his friends. He just really had a great bit of life in him.
“I could have never asked for a better son. He loved me and my husband, and we loved him.”
Donna Thieleman said Sean learned the value of work at a young age. He was 12 when he began working at the family greenhouse business.
In their mourning, the Thielemans have been overwhelmed with the support of the community, she said.
“We thought that maybe we didn’t really have friends, because we work so hard, but it’s been unbelievable. It’s been so helpful. It’s been outstanding. It’s been heartwarming.”
Tributes and scholarships are planned in memory of Sean, whose name will be inscribed at the ice surface at the Castor arena, his mother said.
A rendition of Stairway to Heaven will be sung at Friday’s service, she said.
“It was a song that I always loved how Sean played it on the guitar, and now maybe he’s on his stairway to Heaven.”
His hockey buddies plan to wear their jerseys to the funeral.
“Heaven definitely gained an angel in Sean,” said Doolaege, who plans to give a tribute at the funeral.
“He had such an outgoing personality. When he walked into a room, he really lit everyone up. He was quite popular. Everyone liked Sean. No one disliked him. He’d never pick a fight. He would always talk his way out of it.”
His passing has impacted his friends in multiple ways.
“I’ll live life differently, for sure,” Weseen said. “It can end in a second.
“Living in a small town like Castor, you don’t think that things can happen that quick. And when they do, it’s just …”
Coronation RCMP reported that Thieleman died in hospital after the van that he was driving collided with a truck carrying farm equipment at about 10 p.m. Friday.
“The driver of the truck was not injured,” Const. Diana Stratton said in a news release.
RCMP said alcohol wasn’t believed to be a factor.