Community mourns tragic loss of Auburn High student, athlete
By ROBERT WHALE
Auburn Reporter News reporter
May 27, 2009 · Updated 4:55 PM
Andrew Bonwell was a gregarious boy, quick with a smile, a boy who loved football, girls and cars, not necessarily in that order.
Friends said that his favorite thing about school was not being at it. He hoped to play football for the Washington Huskies, and, as he liked to say, “live big.” On May 19, he was mere weeks from graduation.
But on that rainy night, Bonwell went out to pick up some ice cream. He was in his car on A Street Southeast following a girl he knew, just south of the Lakeland Hills Way intersection. He pulled up alongside her to get her attention and smashed head on into an oncoming car he did not see coming.
Bonwell, 18, was killed. A critically injured woman was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and two other people were taken to Auburn Regional Medical Center.
Last Friday afternoon, hundreds of fellow students, teachers, friends and family gathered at Auburn Memorial Stadium to remember a life that ended too soon.
Pictures of Bonwell, who played tight end and safety for the Trojans, faced the crowd from easels placed on the track.
“Any passing of a young person is tragic and senseless, and it doesn’t matter what the circumstances,” said Gordon Elliott, Auburn High’s head football coach. “It’s always a life that we look at as being unfulfilled.”
Elliott remembered the first time he saw Bonwell, a sophomore who had just transferred from Liberty High School.
“He stood up, gave me a firm handshake, and said, ‘I’m Andrew Bonwell, I’m coming from Liberty High School, and I want to play football.’ And I looked in his eyes and saw that intensity, and I knew he was going to help us,” Elliott recalled.
William Bonnell, who taught Bonwell in his English class, spoke through tears.
“These are the hardest moments as a teacher,” Bonnell said. “I saw a lot of myself in Andrew. I wasn’t the best student. He was a lot like me. He was one of those ‘make me care, Mr. Bonnell’ type of students. And he did, he really made me work to make him care. And he did.”
“The only thing he could talk about was girls, random girls, any type of girls,” said Patrick Smith, 18.
Jason Gordon was one of a tight-knit group of boys who hung out with Bonwell nearly every day, played football with him and spent happy summer days floating down the Green River with him.
“He was the coolest guy,” Gordon said.
But Bonwell had a goofy side, too.
“He used to drink this awful chocolate milk called Yoohoo. It tasted so bad, and he used to try to convince every single person that he met that Yoohoo was the best thing in the world,” Gordon recalled with a laugh.
“He could be the hardest-headed person in the entire world,” Gordon added. “Play a game with him, and if there was a foul, he would just go on and on and on about it until he was right.”
“It’s good to see how many lives he touched. It really humbles me. He was one of the best people I have ever known,” said buddy Christian Shaw, 17.
Services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Zion Lutheran Church, 1305 17th St. SE. A viewing will be held 4-7 p.m. today at Yahn & Son Funeral Home, West Main and West Valley Highway South.Contact Auburn Reporter News reporter Robert Whale at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-833-0218, ext. 5052.