Randy Wyrick

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Celebrations scheduled for Garrett LaForce, teacher and coach who died in car crash

EAGLE COUNTY — Garrett LaForce was a good man and coach on his way to becoming great. He and two others died last weekend when their car rolled off a steep mountainside road near Telluride.

His players will do what we all do, the only thing anyone can do — they’ll go on. There’ll be times they won’t want to, but they will.

Go, you see, is an action verb, and LaForce was a man of action.

LaForce was Eagle Valley’s head volleyball coach and helped coach girls soccer. His volleyball team was supposed to hold a position camp this week. It was canceled because all the camp’s coaches were in that car.

Three died. One lived.

The team will go to their team camp at Colorado State University later this month. They’ll go.

LaForce, 26, Ed Bollman, 23, and Carly Sansone, 21, all died when their car went off the road between Telluride and Ophir at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday. They were on the way back to their campsite and were only minutes away. Another Eagle Valley teacher, Weston Gleiss, escaped with minor injuries.

LaForce, Bollman and Gleiss have been pals since their days at the University of Northern Michigan.

LaForce earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education-industrial technology in 2012 from Northern Michigan University. He’s a native of Libertyville, Illinois, and lived in Eagle.

After learning of his death, LaForce’s entire family came to Colorado.

“Garrett’s family knew he loved this place. They all came out to see it for themselves,” said Tami Payne, Eagle Valley’s athletic director.

LaForce had plenty to do between coaching Eagle Valley’s volleyball team and teaching technology and industrial arts. But when girls soccer coach Stephen Baxter asked him to handle conditioning for the girls soccer team he said something like, “Sure!”

He hadn’t played soccer since he was in fourth grade, but that didn’t slow him down much.

“He was a good guy and a great coach,” Baxter said.

At a pickup soccer game Wednesday, Baxter and Payne offered the girls this bit of sage counsel: “Let your friends grieve as they want to. Our job is to support them,” Baxter said.

Life in his years

LaForce was just 26, not very many years, but oh my how he packed life into those years.

One night earlier this week, a bunch of his players were sitting around trying to process it all, when the stories started. Moments later the giggling followed, sounding like angels wings as the rough, raw emotions began to yield to the first stages of healing.

There was the picture in their heads of LaForce dressed in old man shoes and sweat pants, looking at people as if asking, “What’s wrong? All the cool kids dress this way, don’t they?”

There was the practice he ran the girls from the high school to Costco for ice cream, a sizable jog. As they were eating he asked, “Are you going to finish that?” He ate an insane amount of ice cream and pizza crusts, and then led the jog back to the school. By the way, they won their next game, just so you know.

Payne was there as the players reminisced and supported one another. Payne asked if they wanted to hit some volleyballs around. They thought not. They’d just be with one another.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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The VailDaily Updated Jul 14, 2014 09:40AM Published Jul 10, 2014 04:48PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.