The 15-foot-tall red oak tree stands strong and quiet on the hillside, a symbol of the well-grounded young man it memorializes.
EMU junior Julia Johnson reflects on fellow New Zealand seminar participant Jason Marner. The red oak tree planted in Jason’s memory is in foreground. Photo by Lindsey Kolb
A group of some 100 supporters surrounded the tree Friday, Sept. 17, as tributes and reflections were shared on behalf of Jason Marner, 21, a spring 2010 graduate.
Jason receives his BS degree in business administration at EMU commencement May 1. (Allen Showalter Photography)
Marner, a business administration graduate of EMU, had completed a two-year internship at Dynamic Aviation in neighboring Bridgewater while a student and had begun work there on Monday, June 28.
He transferred from Hesston (Kan.) College the fall of 2008 after completing an AA degree in aviation there. He was a 2006 graduate of Iowa Mennonite School, Kalona, and a member of Bethel Mennonite Church, Wayland, Iowa.
On Thursday morning of that week, Marner was riding his motorcycle between work sites and was fatally injured when he apparently lost control and swerved into the path of an oncoming pickup truck on Airport Road.
‘A short story well-lived’
Friends left messages on a campus reflections blog, and traveled to his memorial in Iowa days later.
“Each of us is given one life to live. Some of us are allowed to live a long life, while others are cut short,” said Ken L. Nafziger, vice president for student life, in opening the ceremony. “Jason’s was a short story well-lived.”
Jason’s parents, Stan and Joann Marner of Brighton, Iowa, attended the ceremony.
Walt Surratt, assistant professor of business and economics who had Marner in several classes, said Jason “had a smile that lit up a room, a spark of spontaneity, was full of life in the way he related to others and possessed a deep and honest faith.”
Cross-cultural classmates pay tribute
After the entire group sang “Nothing is Lost on the Breath of God,” several members of the EMU cross-cultural study in New Zealand that Marner had taken part in earlier this summer paid tribute to their classmate.
“Jason knew where he stood on campus; his sense of self was contagious,” said Julia Johnson, 20, an EMU junior nursing student from Harrisonburg. “This tree will serve as a reminder of Jason’s time spent on this campus, a grounded person.”
Jason Marner (second from left) with the EMU cross-cultural group in New Zealand. (Andrew Shepherd)
Cross-cultural group members added spades of dirt around the tree as country artist Brad Paisley’s “When I Get Where I’m Going” played in the background. They closed the program by singing “Te Aroha” in the Mari language.
Many persons lingered after the ceremony in the warm late morning sun, expressing words of care and comfort to each other.