April 28, 2011By Greg Duggan Observer correspondent
By the time Dylan Peters could walk, he could run. And running opened a whole new level of existence, one where the child learned to climb, to jump, to constantly stay in motion. Dylan’s father, Jim Peters, remembers hearing thuds when his son was 9 months old and leaping out of his crib. His mother, Sue Peters, said baby gates could barely contain the boy.
The adventurous nature never left Peters in his 18 years. Described by one friend as an “adrenaline junkie,” Peters took up skateboarding and became a talented snowboarder, winning local and national events with his massive, spinning, inverted jumps.
That life of constant motion — “He did not sit still,” Jim Peters said of his son — ended abruptly this month.
Peters, a student at Champlain Valley Union High School and Burlington Technical Center, died April 7 following a car accident on Oak Hill Road. The Williston Police Department’s preliminary investigation identified the cause of the accident as “excessive speed along with loss of control of the vehicle,” according to a press release.
When hundreds gathered for a memorial service at the Bolton Valley base lodge on April 13, friends, coaches, teachers and family members shared stories about Peters’ short, rich life. Snowboarding had garnered Peters the most recognition in the broader community, but the teen’s reach extended far beyond the snowboarding world. Friendly and easy-going, Peters built strong friendships in CVU, Burlington Tech, the art community and multiple snowboarding clubs. When Peters died, those communities lost a close friend, and his family — parents Jim and Sue, younger brother Dustin and younger sister Danielle — lost a son and brother.
The many talents of Dylan Peters
Peters had many interests. As his mother said, “He was passionate about whatever he did, whatever he wanted to do.”
Snowboarding dominated his winter. Warmer months gave way to music and skateboarding. Art became a year-round endeavor.
“He crammed a lot into 18 years. It was not a boring 18 years,” Jim Peters said.
Snowboarding took Peters from the slopes and terrain parks at Bolton, Stowe and Waterville Valley to the mountains of the western United States. Former Bolton Valley Snowboard Team coach Zach Hoag described Dylan’s progression as one of “happy persistence.”
“Dylan’s personality was quiet, happy, and confident,” Hoag wrote in an e-mail to the Observer. “And I think that led him to be a very dedicated snowboarder — he knew he could succeed, he enjoyed every minute of his riding, and he encouraged his friends instead of competing with them.”
Peters began winning competitions in his early teens. Sponsorships followed. In 2010, Peters captured first place in the junior men’s slopestyle competition at the USA Snowboarding Association national championship.
Sue Peters said her son wanted to move up in the snowboarding world, and then combine his boarding and artistic talents into a business focused on action sports. An honor roll student, Peters had yet to commit to college, though his parents believe he would have chosen to attend Westminster College. The liberal arts school in Utah had offered Peters a $100,000 scholarship, and encourages students to supplement academics with skiing and boarding in the nearby mountains. Peters’ parents said he was planning a course of study that combined communication, art and entrepreneurship.
“He was always talking about wanting to be an entrepreneur,” said Colleen Murphy, Peters’ Design and Illustration teacher at Burlington Technical Center.
Murphy called Peters a talented artist, best at graphic design, and noted that not all artists enter the field to make money. Not many artists have a strong business sense, Murphy said, but Peters “had a head for that. He always used to say he’d be famous, and we would laugh, you know.”
‘Dylan defies stereotypes’
“Dylan defies stereotypes,” Adam Bunting, a CVU teacher and Peters’ house director and advisor, wrote in a letter of recommendation.
For all Peters’ talents and interests, those who knew him say they will remember his humble, easygoing personality that allowed him to connect with a diverse set of people. Speaking at Peters’ April 13 memorial service, Bunting said, “Dylan transcended social groups and societal expectations. He thought for himself, and in Dylan’s world, a snowboarder could earn a 4.0, craft gangsta rhymes and treat his peers with respect and dignity.”
Peters dressed in baggy clothes — often wearing purple, his favorite color — pants sagging low, at times held up by a belt buckle containing a certain four-letter curse word starting with ‘F.’
“He was kind of a hip-hoppy kind of kid who snowboards and skateboards,” Peters’ friend Gabe Cohn told the Observer.
Despite the image, Peters floated easily between sets of friends. As Cohn said, “I’m three years younger … and he hangs out with me all the time. He doesn’t care.”
“Dylan was able to find value in and connect with just about anybody,” Bunting wrote in an e-mail to the Observer. “Dylan’s activities were just as diverse as his choice of friends. Slapping a label on Dylan just doesn’t work.”
Friends speaking at the memorial service shared tales about mischievous escapades. Cohn recalled sneaking away from home during a sleepover with Peters, eventually ending up at a swimming hole in the Huntington River at 4 a.m.
Ivan DeLean, another close friend of Peters — “he’s like my twin brother,” DeLean said — reminisced about Peters crafting a homemade hang glider to jump off a slope at a local sandpit.
“Having so many friends was a testament to how caring he was, how fun he was to be around,” Sue Peters said.
The playful, outgoing personality stands out as people remember Peters.
“It’s not the specific moments that linger,” Bunting wrote in an e-mail to the Observer. “It is his spirit that was so well represented by his huge playful grin. I am hard pressed to remember a moment when he wasn’t smiling.”
Jim Peters said the family looked through old photos to display at the memorial, ultimately choosing 200 or 250. In only one was Dylan not smiling, Jim Peters said, because in that picture Dylan’s then-baby sister had just thrown up on his chest.
“His brother and sister looked up to him,” Sue Peters said. “He set the energy for the household.”
Though Peters will no longer touch people daily with his charisma, his family wants to ensure that memories of the teen never fade. Even in death, Peters was able to bring life. Five of his vital organs were donated to four people. His corneas, bone and tissue also became donations.
“Dylan’s last great act was that he saved four people,” Jim Peters said.
“And gave sight to another and helped countless others with (skin and tissue) repairs,” Sue Peters added.
The family hopes their son’s donations can raise awareness about organ donation.
The Peters family also plans to extend the memory of their son through the Dylan Peters Art of Snowboarding Fund.
“I always want to make good out of bad and fix things,” Sue Peters said. “I can’t fix this.”
Instead, Sue Peters wants to help children who do not have the advantages of her son but still want to pursue art or snowboarding.
Friends, too, have devised their own way of keeping Dylan in their lives. Sue Peters said many of Dylan’s friends have placed a picture of him on the dashboards of their cars.
“He touched a lot of people,” Sue Peters said.
Donations in Dylan Peters’ memory can be made to the Dylan Peters Art of Snowboarding Fund, c/o Sue and Jim Peters, 1102 Ledgewood Drive, Williston, VT 05495.