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Voyageur's Best Generally Speaking Columns of 2002

Skye Rinta

A somber week
Local community's mourn the passing of a loved one
by John Grones  | August 13, 2002

It was a somber week for area residents and, like everybody else, it was difficult to go about business as usual. It was Mon., Aug. 5, and I’d picked my daughter up from home, popping here and there through the Wright and Cromwell areas. It had already occurred to me that something was wrong, as everywhere I went people weren’t smiling and they weren’t their normal, chipper selves. It was my son who broke the news, when we picked him up from a friend’s house near Sawyer.

Immediately following the announcement that 13-year old Skye Rinta had died in an automobile accident, I didn’t want to believe it. I’m not sure my son, Taylor, and daughter, Alexa, wanted to believe it either. We headed east, back home, a numb silence in the car, as nobody spoke a word. Just before we reached Cromwell, Alexa buried her head under her shirt, broke down and sobbed. Taylor continued to fight back the tears, and so did I.

At this point, I knew we were in for a tough week. There would be several family and friends struggling with the untimely death. It’s always hard when a person dies, but especially hard when they die so young.

I knew Skye, and I’m sure everyone would agree she was a bubbly girl... always smiling... always so positive. She always greeted me at ball games and was very pleasant. I can’t recall a time when she did not acknowledge my presence and greet me with a smile.

What I didn’t know until this week was that Skye was a close friend of my daughter. They rode the school bus together. I remember when Alexa had her birthday in Jan. and Skye made it very special, with balloons and locker decorations. My son knew Skye, too and informed me that it’s a small school. Everybody knew Skye.

By Mon. evening, Lynn Odegaard and Pauly Granholm had urged Pastor Matt Saarem to open the church for the kids to gather and talk. Personally, I felt this was an excellent idea... so many questions, especially with the youth. That night, there was plenty of hugging and comforting and everyone lit a candle representing a memory they had with Skye. So many attended that they ran out of candles; so many memories...

Taylor finally cried that evening, along with his friends.

With all the recent tragedies in Cromwell, High School Principal, JoAnn Bloemendaal, has had her hands full. It started in the spring, when Sara Lee Richards was diagnosed with leukemia. At the same time, a former student of Cromwell, Michael Witz, died at the age of 20. Michael was a friend of the Rinta family.

Then on July 3rd, Joe Niemi died in a swimming accident. He was 18.

And now, Skye. “This was the second funeral I’ve had to prepare at the school,” said JoAnn. “In 1997, eighth grader, Josh Schmitz, died. That was the year the school was preparing for a state football tournament, while I was preparing for a funeral.”

By Thurs., the visitation had passed and on Fri., everyone filled the Cromwell High School gymnasium for the funeral service. Tears continued to flow as Skye’s father, Sherman, spoke to those in attendance.

My wife, Memory, cried – and so did I.

Following music, prayer and reflections, the people quietly walked down highway 73 to the Forest Hill Cemetery, where Skye was buried. The finality of it all was on each and everyone’s face, as the crowd bowed in silence. Another prayer and a few last words were spoken. Silence continued as everyone filed back onto the highway and back to the school.

At school, Skye’s classmates prepared to plant a tree as a memorial for her. The tree now stands on the west end of the schoo,l near the main entrance. Come Sept., the students at Cromwell High School will be back to business as usual, but the tree will greet them each and every day – a tree that will represent that bubbly... smiling... positive young girl – Skye Robin Rinta (Nov. 2, 1988 - Aug. 4, 2002).

The staff at the Voyageur Press would like to offer their deepest sympathy to Skye’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

This article first appeared in the August 13, 2002 issue of the Voyageur Press.