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Friends give touching speeches at teen's funeral

Curtis Wildfong/The Holland Sentinel • Jun 25, 2016 at 9:00 AM

HOLLAND — Through tears and with a broken voice, a 16-year-old boy stood in front of hundreds of people and said he was the luckiest person alive to get to spend 16 years with his friend, Riley Hoeksema, and looked forward to one day seeing him again.

“Until God calls us home, see ya’ later, bud,” the boy said at Riley’s funeral service Friday.

The boy turned around, looked up at the photos of Riley, and walked into the outstretched arms of two other boys, Riley’s closest group of friends.

“This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be,” said Todd Smeenge, swim coach at Holland Christian High School, where Riley just finished his sophomore year. “Young people are supposed to say great things about their older, wiser mentors — not the other way around.”

But it was Smeenge, a high school coach, speaking about what Riley was to him.

“Riley always wanted to see the best in his teammates, even if they were competing against him,” he said. “Riley genuinely cared for others.”

That was the common theme during Riley’s funeral, held in front of hundreds at Christ Memorial Church in Holland.

Riley drowned earlier this week after he fell out of a boat on Lake Michigan.

His pastor, youth group leader, coach, friends, cousins and family all got up and spoke about the kind, sincere, enthusiastic and positive nature of Riley.

“From the first day we met, he was the best friend I ever had,” one of Riley’s friends said. “We both loved being around people, but we were closest when we were alone. Being around each other, talking about life — that’s how I’m going to remember him.”

He said the two were always together, experiencing growing up together.

“Riley, I’m going to miss you,” the friend said. “You’re experiencing your greatest adventure, and I’m sure you’ll show me when I get up there. I love you.”

Another friend said: “I could share so many memories, but the joke is, if I did, that we’d be here all night. ... In the almost 17 years he had with us, he touched so many people. He touched me.”

The names of Riley's friends who spoke weren't provided because they're minors.

Riley’s father, Matt Hoeksema, was the last to speak. He ended the service by reading a quote from one of Riley’s writings: “Heaven is the only utopia, and it’s the one I want to go to.”

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