I found out Sean was coming into this world after I had finished basic training at Lackland Airforce base. I was calling home and Pauline gave me the great news that she was pregnant again which was scary and happy all at the same time because we were apart and he was a total surprise baby.
We were living in a small apt in Spokane Washington and were able to bring him home from the military hospital. From the time he got home he was like a cling-on to his mother. He craved and demanded her attention and was not a baby you could just set and walk away from. He wanted to be with one of his parents at all times.
He enjoyed pulling his sister’s hair, dragging her, and breaking her dolls. Every time he’d get in trouble he’d give a devious grin. That was just his way. As he got older it only got worse. When he was about 2-3 he found scissors and decided to cut out a design in the blinds in the front room. He woke us up to show us how beautiful it was. By the way, this was while we were sleeping, we didn’t give him our consent of course! On another occasion he decided to make his own personal sand pile in the basement so he got sugar and salt, powdered laundry detergent, and some other things that were colorful and mixed it all into a pile and was covered with it when we found him sharing it with his sister and cousin.
Pauline referred to them as Sean stories. Loved ones from out of state would call every week just to find out what new thing he had devised.
Between the terrible twos and terrible fours, he was prone to hysterical tantrums where he would go right in front of you and slam his head into the ground, doing it so many times he had bruises on top of bruises. He always tried to get what he wanted. As this was not healthy for him or us, we went to the pediatrician and told her that he was going to kill himself if he didn’t stop. She recommended tepid baths, so we would fill up the bathtub with water, lay him in there, and he would thrash, but he finally learned that if we said “you need to take a bath”, he would stop.
Anytime Pauline or I were working on something or making something he wanted to be involved. At an early age he was more mechanically inclined than myself. Pauline learned that if she went to Deseret Industries (our local thrift shop)I and got a box of broken phones or other electrical equipment, she could give it to him and let him tear it apart and then he wouldn’t tear apart the things that we were using.
When he was about five, we moved back to Utah and were stationed at Hill Air Force Base. He was first frightened by the F-16’s because we opted for free housing that was right next to the flight line but at the previous base when the B-52’s would rumble above overhead, I told Sean and Chelcie that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were in the planes and they reached the point where they would look forward to them flying overhead.
But at Hill Air Force Base, they were higher pitched, and faster flying and Sean said that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck needed to slow down because they were shaking his windows.
We were only at Hill AFB for only about 6-8 months before we moved to Salt Lake City in 1991 where Sean got his first taste of civilian life. He was not one that we could leave with baby sitters except for family members he knew would not let him to misbehave. Both of Sean’s grandfathers would just pick him off the ground so his feet would stop running, to get him to pay attention. Basically he was a hyperactive child.
When he entered first grade or kindergarten he was bored with learning the ABC’s. He didn’t know why his teachers were forcing him to learn these shapes. Pauline finally made him realize that if you put the letters together you made words. They made giant letters and posted them down the hallway and all over the house. In just a few months he was reading because he knew there was a purpose for the letters.
If you didn’t give Sean a project or some tools to build with he would scrounge around the house and find his own, and tear it apart. He hated to be alone, and would drag his brothers or sister into whatever idea he had that day.
After a year at that home we moved to Riverton to live with Pauline’s folks. He liked the larger yard and land to roam around on. His grandmother was always giving them craft ideas to paint and color. By that time all of his siblings were born and he tried to prevail his dominance over all of them, but being taller than Chelcie did him no good. She was the boss! He must have feared or respected her, one of the two!
When Sean would get out of hand, there was no disciplining him through regular means. The only thing Pauline could do was ground him from his siblings which was intolerable for him But sometimes it was the opposite: if he was quarreling with a sibling, Pauline would make him stay with that sibling for the rest of the day.
By age 9 Sean was computer literate and was networking computers and busy with the family business, an internet company that involved his parents, grandmother and grandfather, Two uncles and an aunt. He would go to work with me and after listening and watching for a few days he started answering tech support calls. Most people thought he was too young and wouldn’t be able to do it properly. One day I had someone call me back and ask who he had just talked to and I said that was my ten year old son. The gentleman was Mark Miller, the owner of Mark Miller Subaru. He was amazed. Afterward I asked Sean about it, and all he had to say was, “Why don’t grownups know these things?”
He would attend the computer classes that we taught on the weekends. I thought that he was going for the donuts but he was going for the knowledge. He had such a thirst for knowledge that he would listen, watch and record technical things like a sponge. Often times people would come to the class and see this little short guy talking, wondering if he was just a grown small person. One student in the class hired Sean for $20 to teach them at home how to use their computer. And between tech support calls he was playing video games. He had near photographic memory.
In 1999, Sean’s aunt had a home that we were able to rent and eventually purchase in Sandy Utah. He spent most of grade school and junior high and part of high school there.
At around age 12 Sean had undiagnosable chronic vertigo. He could hardly walk without falling over and we frantically tried to find the medical cause and cure. Sean, not being a quitter, would use the walls, furniture, but refused to stay lying down. He went to such extremes as to force himself to use a skateboard to get his balance back. They never knew the true cause of it but thought it was a virus that had attacked his equilibrium.
The skateboard thing went a bit too far because then he made a luge with his brothers with a bunch of boards and skis and other wheels. We later learned that he took his brothers on a downhill tour from 5th East all the way past State Street in the middle of the night. He didn’t tell us this until years later which gave us a heart attack!
Sean had many sidekicks. His primary sidekick was his brother Stephan Lamar. Stephan was opposite of Sean. He liked to sit back and watch and learn. Sean was having none of it, taking Stephan everywhere he went. Chelcie tried to control them, so Sean learned to be devious and steal Stephan away from Chelcie. They would get into all kinds of mischief and as time progressed he involved all of his brothers. On one occasion he was dared to wear one of Chelcie’s dresses. He ran down the street and back as fast as he could.
Sean was most people’s devil’s advocate. Once you told your opinion he would make you justify your reasoning. Because of his vertigo, he missed almost a year and a half of school and by then he was learning so much from books and the internet he didn’t seem to have much use for teachers. He could learn faster on his own. He didn’t graduate from high school by walking down the aisle. But he crammed two years of high school into about four months of packets and he dragged his brothers into this of course and they all helped him.
Sean would go from one idea to another about what he wanted to do in life. He scared us on many occasions, especially when he wanted to be a grease monkey in high school. Prior to that at age 11 or 12 he was going to bed not reading children’s books, but programming books on how to learn Dos and Unix as bedtime stories. We were baffled and worried about him! But he soon tired of the mechanical life and went back to computers. He was the audio video director at Jordan High School and would usually sluff all of his classes except that one. He craved technology. His Last position was head of technology for Playground Sessions a way for people to learn the piano
Throughout high school and middle school he didn’t seem to need many friends or girlfriends. His band of brothers and sister at home were usually all he needed although I do remember a neighbor directly behind our house in Sandy, a Russian boy that Sean liked to get into trouble with. One day I heard a window break, went out to the backyard and the neighbor boy had thrown the football through the large window, and Sean being courteous decided to throw it back to him and the neighbor boy through it back and broke our other window. Over a four-year period Sean probably broke 5 or 6 windows in our homes.
He enjoyed climbing on our roof and the neighbor’s fence in the winter time, finding things to slide down the slope down and into the snow. Chelcie learned that she could also ground him from her brothers if he got out of hand.
We hardly left Sean without immediate family because two or three times we left him with close friends or neighbors it didn’t go well! Teachers and some other professional people wanted to put him on Ritalin but as we saw news articles and stories from other children having trouble from the medicine and Pauline was having none of it. She knew he would outgrow it and live through it.
Sean was too intelligent for most grownups. His mind was so speedy and quick. Even his parents couldn’t win an argument with him because he would change the subject so fast.
After our internet company went out of business, Sean continued to learn programing on his own and created a website for his grandfather called goodmonkeys.com which involved teaching people with audio and images how to learn 8 different languages.
He soon became an independent contractor and was getting jobs from all over the world. He again involved his brother Stephan and his cousin Casey. They got their own office downtown. Sean never went by other people’s ideas of how to start a business. He just jumped in with both feet. Because of this his brothers Stephan, Cameron and Darien also learned the computer really well. He was so successful by his early 20’s he was able to purchase a home with his sister Chelcie. He attended Salt Lake Community college, but was bored with the computer instructors as they were behind him in computer languages. He opted to learn on his own through chat rooms and forums. This eventually led him to want to learn Chinese, and not wanting to learn from anyone other than a Chinese person, he found Li Xin, or Poppy, as we now know her. They conversed back and forth, she teaching him Chinese, he teaching her some English. They soon fell in love and had to meet. Sean obtained a passport and money and left the United States for China. He stayed and lived there with her for a few months and was in constant contact with us telling us how different China was, and how there were many ways to eat and sleep and live.
He was constantly telling me of new people. I was very fearful because all I knew of China was that it was communist. I was Skype talking with him and he said, “Dad don’t worry, they love me over here, I’m a tall white guy.” I said “I know, but you have to be careful.” But as he taught me later, It was more of a capitalist society that I thought. On one occasion when I was worried about it he told me that it was no big deal, “Dad, you just have to register at the police station when you go from one city to the next.” The police would gather around and take a picture with them because they hadn’t met many white guys before. But eventually he didn’t want to go out in the daytime because he would be followed by people and stared at. He didn’t like the attention. So he would just go out at night with Poppy. He wasn’t scared of trying new foods. He would say he like something, just to show respect for their customs and food.
He came home and during those months he worked 16-18 hour days to get enough money to go back to her. After back and forth visits they soon decided to marry. They had a big celebration in Woohan; he told me that the celebration was very elaborate and they went all out for him and Poppy.
After researching and getting all the legal paperwork done Poppy was finally able to come to Utah to live and we asked them to stay with us, but he had a place where he wanted them to live.
In the United States people hug and kiss and bombard her with questions and love and attention and sometimes he would pull us aside and say, “She needs a break.” Although she spoke fluent English the large gatherings and family events were hard for her to hear. She was always very conscious of trying to learn our customs and Sean made sure we knew her culture so we could understand.
Before she came to the US, Poppy had almost no knowledge of pets, and we were concerned at first, but she immediately loved and adored Sean’s animals, always petting them and playing with them and feeding them. She was a natural animal lover.
Although Poppy had degrees in China they were not respected in the US and Sean encouraged her to start all over, no matter the cost. Without government grants or loans he was able to put her through community college where she got her associate degree and then he paid for her to go to the University of Utah where she is currently learning to be a CPA.
Poppy was always saying that she needed to work and felt bad that Sean was making all the income, but being Sean and always being forward thinking, he knew that with Poppy’s intelligence she needed to go all the way. Poppy always underestimated her intelligence even though Sean and all of our family knew that she was super intelligent. Over the last few years Poppy has been non-stop studying and she has been at the top of her class. Sean recently told me that she got an internship and so he was hoping what we all believed, that she finally understood that she is very intelligent as well as beautiful!
Sean had no real need for outside friends. His best friends were his sister and his three brothers. They played sports depending on the seasons. Luckily having four of them they could have even teams. Oftentimes Cody and Casey were able to join them. Sean easily accepted Chelcie’s husband James as a brother and always tried to include him and make him feel part of the gang.
Sean had a love hate relationship with Alyssa and Holly, only because they took his brothers away from him at times. He was always trying to teach them all about finances, to teach them how to get further ahead in life.
He enjoyed healthy debates and unhealthy debates over Sunday dinners which for years we did every Sunday. The greatest things about Sean was that when any one of us needed a helping hand he was the first to volunteer and would guilt, trap, drag, anyone else that could, to also help.
Although Sean loved children he was awkward around them. Being a giant of a man, he was afraid he would break them! But I often saw him adoring and loving them. He was amazed at how tiny they were and how their minds worked. I’m sure he was learning how to become a father through his siblings’ children.
The last week of Sean’s life he told me that he was going to take me to the mountains for father’s day. He spent the greater part of the last two weeks finishing, building and repairing the home he was raised in and hauling garbage to the dump, and then bringing the entire garage contents to our new home with his big truck. He always volunteered and helped.
It’s ironic that within a day of him getting us settled in our new home, he passed away. I’m grateful and Pauline is too, that we had a dinner with him and Poppy and her parents and sister before the tragedy occurred.
The last time I spoke with Sean everyone was looking at the Bridal Veil Falls. I tapped on his shoulder and told him to look at the opposite direction, at the green snow-capped mountains. He said, “yeah, Pop, that’s pretty cool.”
Within minutes we heard “Child in the water!” I heard Sean’s feet clomping behind me and then soon didn’t hear him anymore but I continued to run thinking he would pass me, not knowing that he had already jumped in and then swam to the mother.
The rest is known by the media in other stories and accounts.
Sean was truly loved. Pauline and I did all in our power to race to save him, and when he was retrieved from the river he continued to fight for life, his heart beating for minutes and then stopping. Physically he wasn’t able to try any longer but he did the best he could.
Sean’s life was short but very compact. I don’t think anyone could ever say a bad word about Sean unless they didn’t know him. I just wanted you to know him better.