A Life of Impact: Dillon Garnes, the Friend Everyone called their Best Friend

On Sunday, June 7, 2020 Mount Si High School senior Dillon Garnes passed away peacefully in his sleep from complications of an undiagnosed, underlying heart condition.

While holding back tears, his mother Karen said, “He had a heart twice the size of an average man, literally and figuratively.”

Dillon’s death has left his family, friends and teachers reeling from the shock of losing someone so young, so unexpectedly. Hearts are aching.

Dillon on the Smith River in Montana

What should be most remembered about Dillon, though, is not how he left this world, but how he lived – and the positive impact he made during his 18 years.

Dillon loved life – and he gave it 100%. His legacy will live on. I am sure of that. When someone touches so many hearts, their impact is forever etched.

Two of my children were Dillon’s friends. They both knew his kindness and positivity firsthand. This was true of many, many others as well.

His mother Karen put it simply: ‘He was wonderful.” She described Dillon as natural, genuine. Someone who didn’t talk badly about people and always brought positivity to any situation. He wanted people to be happy.

Karen explained, “He didn’t want to be part of negativity. He put his energy and focus into the people he was with at the time, whether it was family or friends. He was always present.”

Dillon was the same genuine person to all. Everyone we spoke to described him similarly. Whether it was a friend, coach, or family member, they all shared the same core message of who he truly was: kind, loving, genuine.

Dillon Alexander Garnes was the definition of true friend. The kind – if you’re lucky – you have in your life. He was mature beyond his years.

Friend Gale Kamp said, “No one could ever forget his laugh and how much he cared about everyone. Dillon was the friend that everyone called their best friend.”

Dillon loved the outdoors – most specifically, cliff jumping. He started on the rocks at Rattlesnake Lake. At age 11, that love of jumping landed him in the 2013 Seattle Times Pictures of the Year. In his teen years, and unbeknownst to his mother, that jumping had progressed to the heights of Meadowbrook Bridge.

Dillon in Montana

He loved working out with his father, Doug, and was striving to be stronger than him one day. He loved making breakfast – biscuits and gravy – for his family. He was best friend and protector to his little sister, Paige. And the kids reminded me, he LOVED shoes.

A full-time Running Start student who was set to graduate with his AA and attend Western Washington University in the fall, Dillon was also recently named captain of the Mount Si High School Track and Field team. He was only 9 practices into the season when the coronavirus pandemic cut the school year short.

Coach Jordan Sauvage said, “He was the guy that was the epitome of a hard worker, giving 100% and still had a great attitude and made it fun. Never did I ever have an encounter with Dillon when he wasn’t respectful and kind. A true reality is that it can be hard for male athletes to have faith/trust in a female coach. Not Dillon. He trusted me and believed in me from the start.”

She added, “Dillon made an impact on all who took the time to see him and to know him. He drew people of all ages to him; making them feel welcomed, included and part of the family. He will be in my heart as one of the greatest athletes I had the privilege to work with. I hope that his legacy will continue in those who were around him and benefitted from his friendship and his character.”

His mother said over the course of the past two days she has quickly come to realize the magnitude of her son’s impact – on neighbors, on friends, on teachers, on coaches. She always knew he was an amazing person, son and brother. Now she knows Dillon’s goodness also transcended to his friendships.

Friend Adriana Spaziano said, “When I had nothing I had him. He was more than a light in my life. He was the reason I woke up some mornings. Now that he’s not physically here doesn’t mean I won’t wake up every morning with him in my heart.”

Friend Claire Stipan said, “Dillon changed my world. He never ever failed to make me smile. I had so many good days because of him and I’ll never ever forget them. I love him with my whole heart and I’ll never forget him. He was my best friend. I’m going to love him forever.”

Friend Jordan Lonergan said, “I’ve known Dillon since I moved here and he‘s always been someone I admired and enjoyed being around. 8 years later, he’s still the smiley 5th grader I remember seeing run around on the playground. I will miss his laugh and warm presence dearly.”

Friend Jennifer McCall said, “Dillon is and always will be my best friend in the world. Going to Western without him won’t be the same, but he’s the reason I applied in the first place and I know his spirit will be with me there. He just wanted me and everyone else to be happy. I will do whatever I can to honor him forever because he made the bad days good and the good days even better. My bodyguard is my guardian angel now. I love you, D.”

Friend Kiara Gil said, “Dillon was the most beautiful person I’ve ever met, inside and out. He radiated positive, loving energy everywhere he went and everyone around him could feel it. I don’t think I will ever meet another human being capable of loving so much and so fully.”

Friend Mady Reed, “You are my everything. A sunflower. The light in our lives.”

Friend Enzo Ferrante said, “Dillon Garnes was a great kid who left no room in his heart for dislike of anyone or anything. He was so kind, generous, understanding, and left comfort and happiness in the lives of everyone he met. Rest in peace Dillon.”

Friend Kassi Winter said, “I relive his laughter in my brain. Imagining his gleaming grin and rosy cheeks as he did so. Allowing me to get lost for a moment. Allowing my heart to breathe. To remember that there is light in the darkness. And that he always brought that light no matter where he went.”

Last Friday Dillon returned from a 5-day rafting trip in Montana with his mother’s longtime boyfriend, Bill. While he was gone, his mother and sister worked tirelessly on a special graduation video encapsulating his life. Karen and Paige had planned to wait until Sunday to show it to him, but after a joyful Saturday morning family breakfast – prepared by Dillion – it was decided he should see it early. He loved it.

Karen commented, “Now I feel like we were just living a script that had already been written.”

A memorial sign has been installed for Dillon in front of his mother’s North Bend home. Visiting hours are 10AM – 7PM. Two memorial gardens will also be constructed in his honor at each parent’s home. Contributions for those gardens – such as bright perennials or sunflowers, soil, painted rocks with a message about Dillon – can be left at the memorial sign. You’re asked to respect the family’s privacy and not come to the door, though.

You can also read Dillon’s obituary HERE. The family requests memories be shared in the online obituary ‘guestbook’ so they can be stored in one place.

Dillon Alexander Garnes, March 1, 2002 ~ June 7, 2020

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