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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, September 23, 2004

Jake Whetten, 21, fun-loving 'La'ie boy,' say family, friends

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Twenty-one-year-old Jake Whetten passed away too soon — his family and friends are sure of that — but they find comfort in knowing he died doing something he loved: playing Ultimate Frisbee in a park with friends.

Jake Whetten

He was perpetually happy, said his brother Brady, always positive and trying his best.

"I often think to myself, the last breath of his life, he was having fun and he was happy," Brady Whetten said yesterday from his home in Orem, Utah. "It is always going to be hard. We are always going to miss Jake."

Jake Whetten, born and raised in La'ie, died Saturday at a park in Provo, Utah. The 2001 graduate of Kahuku High School was a sophomore at Brigham Young University majoring in construction management.

Jake's Ultimate Frisbee team had just scored a touchdown and the teams were switching sides when he fell to his knees, then flat on his face, Brady said. Jake's friends immediately began CPR before paramedics arrived. He died shortly after.

Judd Whetten, Jake's father, remembers a mischievous teen who matured into a man not unlike himself. Jake wanted to be a builder, like Judd and Judd's father.

"He liked the same kind of things I liked to do, and I'll miss that about him," his father said. "He was a little rascal in high school, but he turned out OK in spite of it, and we'll miss him."

In the months leading up to his death, Jake Whetten had enjoyed several adventures, his family said, including a mission in Tacoma, Wash., for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a trip to Italy last summer with his sister, Jana.

"I always got along with him really well; he was really easy for me to spend time with," said Jana Whetten, who said she was in Italy with her brother a month ago, and loved touring Europe with him.

By all accounts, Jake was an outdoorsman, a man who loved to hike in the mountains above La'ie and snowboard Utah's powder-caked slopes. At Kahuku he played goalie on the water polo team. Coach Doug Cole described him as a player who made his team better and was a joy to coach.

He was great with kids, his family said, and enjoyed spending time with his niece and six nephews.

Jake's oldest brother, Derek, has built a Web site, www.rememberjake.com, a collage of photos, stories and information about the youngest Whetten. A quick browse of the site shows a tall, lanky, shaggy-haired kid displaying all kinds of goofy smiles.

A storyboard section contains letters and wishes put together by family, lifelong friends and an English instructor who had known Jake for three weeks.

"I have a Hawaiian-style shave-ice business up here (in Utah)," said Derek Whetten, 32, "and I remember building stands together with Jake and Brady. It was fun bringing a part of Hawai'i here and doing it as a family.

"I'll miss him for the rest of my life."

Whetten's funeral is scheduled for Friday at the Sharon Park Chapel in Orem, which was built by Jake's grandfather. It was the ward his parents attended when they first married.

Reach Peter Boylan at 535-8110 or pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.