Memorial

Playful, charming Hellgate student killed by car remembered in stadium service

2013-04-05T22:00:00Z 2014-01-17T17:32:49Z Playful, charming Hellgate student killed by car remembered in stadium service missoulian.com

A rain squall blew through Washington-Grizzly Stadium in the middle of Friday’s funeral service for 19-year-old Chance Geery.

Attendants passed out umbrellas to family and friends seated on the 50-yard line. When Gabby Rosier tried to open hers it popped up inside out, as if tugged from above.

“Oh, yeah,” Geery’s longtime girlfriend said later. “That was Chance.”

It was a moment of levity in a tearful, first-of-its kind ceremony in Montana’s largest football stadium.

Geery, a boisterous, playful, charming senior at Hellgate High School, died Monday when he was struck by a car while walking hand-in-hand with Rosier on a sidewalk along Mullan Road.

Police said at the time the driver of the vehicle, an unidentified woman, was apparently distracted. Alcohol, drugs or texting didn’t appear to be factors. A police department spokesman on Friday said investigators are “waiting on a couple of things” before completing their report to the county attorney, who’ll decide if charges will be filed.

Nearly 300 people gathered for the noon memorial service in a west section of the University of Montana stadium. A white canopy on the stadium floor sheltered a floral arrangement and the urn holding Geery’s cremains.

Family, friends and coaches sat in front of the canopy in folding chairs for an hourlong ceremony that concluded with a video/slideshow of Geery’s life on the stadium’s giant video screen.

Through the rest of the service, the same screen displayed a picture of Geery in his scarlet, black and gold Hellgate Knights football uniform, No. 58.

***

An all-state defensive lineman for Hellgate last fall, Geery told his father in the weeks leading up to his death that he’d talked to Grizzly coaches who had encouraged him to walk on next fall.

“He looked forward to playing football at college, maybe on this field,” said Chaplain Dan Dixson, pastor for Partners in Home Care Hospice, who officiated the service.

Besides football, baseball and other sports, Geery loved motocross and was in the process of fixing up a vintage Dodge Charger for his senior project. He led an active lifestyle enriched by a large cadre of friends.

“Chance grew up with the mountains and waters of western Montana as his own backyard, and he made choices to do things in those outdoors – camping and going on adventures with his friends and family,” Dixson said.

Todd Geery called his son a protector, of his little brother Chalan, of his quarterback and of his girlfriend. He was a Superman fan from a very young age.

“I would say: ‘You know, Chance, Superman isn’t real.’ And his reply to me would usually be something like, ‘Yes. I is real.’”

Chance dressed up as Superman whenever he could, for Halloween, even a couple of times at Hellgate – “probably in the same outfit he wore when he was 6,” Todd said.

“He was a little boy in a great big body,” said Teresa Burch-Geery, Chance’s mother. “He never wanted to grow up. He doesn’t have to now.”

Rosier, who dated Geery since grade school, said they had plans to go to college together, maybe get married, maybe have kids.

“We were planning to get jobs soon and move out, and I knew that I would have a life with him,” Rosier said. “And now that that’s gone all I have is to thank him for the life that he gave me, and I owe it all to him.

“I just want you to know that I love you so much, Chance, and I’m going to miss you forever.”

***

Among Geery’s peers who sat on the field were 13 “Bonner Boys” – honorary pallbearers who grew up with Geery and graduated with him from Bonner School four years ago.

“If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t have done football this past year,” said one of them, No. 71 Skylar Nowlen, who shared the left offensive tackle spot with Geery.

“I was contemplating it this last year. Chance messaged me over the summer and kind of encouraged me to (play) and told me to get hold of the coach. I did and came out for practice for the first day and he was right there next to me.”

The same Bonner class of 2009 lost Ashlee Patenaude and Taylor Cearley in December of their freshman year under all-too-similar circumstances – hit by a driver, who was in this case impaired, while they walked with friends along Montana Highway 200 near East Missoula.

The outpouring of grief at that time included a memorial service in a jam-packed Bonner School gym. A similar scene played out in the gym last October after 36-year-old Jessica Weimer, a mother and popular kitchen worker at the school, died in a head-on collision on the Blackfoot highway.

Based on the previous funerals, Todd Geery said he tried to think of a larger venue for his son’s service. He had no idea how to go about landing Washington-Grizzly Stadium, but Rosier and others took the dream and ran with it.

Willie Beamon, who coaches linebackers for the Knights, said he got in touch with UM head coach Mick Delaney through Jesse Ginn, a current Grizzly and former Hellgate player.

Delaney, said Beamon, “was on board right away” and put him in touch with UM’s Chuck Maes, internal operations director, and events coordinator Janie Haight.

“It was awesome,” Beamon said. “I didn’t really have to say anything. I just said our kid passed away and they were on board.”

Haight worked with Garden City Funeral Home to coordinate the funeral, the first in the stadium’s 27-year history. The logistics worked out well, since it was spring break on campus and the UM football and soccer teams who use the stadium also took the week off.

“My biggest worry was they were forecasting 90 percent chance of rain for Friday,” Haight said. “But it worked out fine.”

Beamon tipped his hat to the effort of the UM staff.

“I can’t say enough about the U,” he said. “I’m definitely a Montana fan now.”

Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at (406) 523-5266 or by email at kbriggeman@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. SunnyShine
    Report Abuse
    SunnyShine - May 04, 2013 7:58 pm
    38?
  2. LizL
    Report Abuse
    LizL - April 19, 2013 2:11 pm
    "She isn't a criminal, she wasn't impaired, she wasn't texting or talking she isnt related to anyone of "power" she is a young woman living in a horrible reality of recent events"

    How do you know all this? The police dept has not released this information. This certainly is a tragedy BUT one that DID not have to happen. This is not some casual mistake!! If you can't accept the rules of the road then don't drive!!!
  3. ScottAftem
    Report Abuse
    ScottAftem - April 18, 2013 3:28 pm
    FOIA!!! release the name of the driver already! Justice for Chance!
  4. idocare
    Report Abuse
    idocare - April 10, 2013 9:46 pm
    We don't know how old the driver was. It could have been an older lady. It doesn't say the lady driver was young.
    However I do think she is a fault and should be charged.
  5. Onesweettreat
    Report Abuse
    Onesweettreat - April 09, 2013 9:11 am
    Just reading some on the young football player that was killed recently, it's so sad to see some of the comments that are made in regards to the person that was driving the car, sometime tragic events are just that, and bad things happen to good people. That driver could have been anyone... She isn't a criminal, she wasn't impaired, she wasn't texting or talking she isnt related to anyone of "power" she is a young woman living in a horrible reality of recent events.. How many times has any one of us been behind the wheel and been distracted and then realized a "close call"... My heart goes out to the young man and his family, my heart aches for the young woman behind the wheel... Compassion and forgiveness starts here
  6. MontanaTaxPayer
    Report Abuse
    MontanaTaxPayer - April 08, 2013 7:02 pm
    @Roger. Someone important? Nawww, Just a driver related to someone in the justice system.
  7. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - April 07, 2013 11:34 am
    Too bad the Missoulian refuses to reveal the identity of the person who killed Chance Geery. Must be someone "important", I guess.
  8. Fawzhuh
    Report Abuse
    Fawzhuh - April 06, 2013 8:46 am
    I truly love this! His girlfriend portrayed him as a hero and his father refers to him as Superman. Some things you just can't make up. Thank you, Kim for a well written article. I had a true sense of being there and am convinced this was a huge loss to our community but a welcome addition to a greater one. Dan Dixson was the perfect choice and I hope he provides the same deep solace to the Geery family that he gave to mine when we needed him.
  9. huckleberryhaven
    Report Abuse
    huckleberryhaven - April 06, 2013 1:24 am
    @JonW, I remember that accident on Mullan that took Scott's life... there were a few more accidents thru the 80's that took the lives of a few Big Sky High boys that I also remember, I believe Chance is in very good company right now. To Teresa, Todd, Gabby and others... Please know we are all thinking of you during this difficult time... sending lots of hugs and prayers your way.
  10. Jon_w
    Report Abuse
    Jon_w - April 05, 2013 9:12 pm
    Cahnces death brings sad memrioes of 1980, whe nScott klaudt was killed on Mullan road. Scott was a good friend who i went to school with for 12 years. he was bright and a good kid, awesome baskerball player. he played for the Knights and in grade school, was the only kid to play for 3 years on the 8th grade baskerball team. He is stilled missed and i know how Chances friends are feeling. Scotts services were held in the main gym at hellgate and it was packed, every seat in the bleachers filled and seats filled on the floor. RIP Chance, your up there in good company as i am sure Scott has already met you. .
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