By Jeannie Lopez

Michael Rodarte was a happy-go-lucky senior at Exeter Union High School who loved joking with friends.

His smile was infectious. His loyalty to his friends was obvious. And his life was too short.

For days now the Exeter Police Department has been investigating the death of Rodarte who was killed in an accidental shooting inside his home on Jan. 25.

Rodarte was found at his home with a gun shot wound to his head. According to investigators with the Exeter Police Department, there are no signs of suicide or foul play. The police department said that there could have been a gun malfunction. Further lab work is being done to determine if the gun was in proper working order.

EPD is still in the middle of investigating the case.

Principal Don Brinkman of EUHS was notified of Rodarte's death on Jan 25. Brinkman then contacted all grief and psychological counselors. The students were then told of the accident although, so many had already heard from others of his death.The counselors were available to the students as long as they needed them. The school helped any grieving students as much as possible. They also helped the students organize the candlelight vigil for Rodarte.

In memory of Rodarte, students of EUHS put together a special Candlelight Vigil on Jan 31, to give their prayers, and to speak their thoughts about what kind of person he was.

On this cold night, more than 100 people came out to EUHS to listen to voices of people who cared for him. People walked up with their Michael Rodarte buttons on and went straight to his family to comfort them. Others held their lit white candles with red ribbons and stood in front of Rodarte's pictures. Many pictures of Rodarte lay on a table, surrounded by friends and family who cried as they remembered him.

Rodarte's family sat quietly mourning his death at the vigil while everyone stood around them to give their condolences and to show that Rodarte was a part of their lives. Then "Amazing Grace" was played on the guitar by Josh Flora Youth Leader for Young Life, and friend of Rodarte. While trying to hold back their tears of sadness the crowd slowly began to join in and sing the song.

Later family and friends were asked to come up to the podium and speak about Rodarte. Each of them slowly approached the microphone to talk about Rodarte. Emotions were high, which, made it difficult for anyone to talk. Then Patty Hylton clenching a bible said, "Michael was a hard worker who didn't fear anything, he had an easy smile."

Hylton took students to Mexico last spring to help build a house for a needy family. Rodarte, a member of Young Life, knew he could really contribute to this mission because of his construction skills. Rodarte had experience building homes, with his grandfather, a contractor by trade. He was a hard worker who never took breaks during construction in Mexico, Rodarte just kept building the house until it was completeed.

Rodarte was also, involved in other extracurricular activities. He was in FFA (Future Farmers of America), and attended all the EUHS football games. He worked a part-time job at Adventure Park, and being in two clubs, he still managed to keep up his grades.

Rodarte was a popular student at EUHS who was many times referred as a person who was "loyal."

Many of his friends considered him not just as a friend ,but as family.

"When we talk about Michael Rodarte we think of him as being friendly, loyal, respectful and a person with a good sense of humor," said Margarita Reed, guidance associate of EUHS.

Rodarte was also talked about as being a person who's always having fun and joking with his friends. "A funny, goofy guy who always said dumb stuff," Cecelia Rodarte, Michael Rodartes sister, said.

Rodarte was a great student, friend and person. If Rodarte's life wasn't cut so short he would have been able to accomplish his one goal - joining the United States Marines.

Rodarte had told everyone that he was supposed to enlist in the Marines right after high school.

"His whole senior portfolio was about the United States Marines" said, Reed.

A vigil celebrated Rodarte's life as a happy person who was loyal and hard-working. Someone who will be remembered for his goofy personality, his funny sense of humor and kind heart. He made a impression with his life by not fearing the world and enjoying his life to the fullest and that's why he was recognized by so many. Rodarte will be missed but, he will never be forgotten by the people who loved him the most.

Students at EUHS are working to get a memorial bench to sit in front of the school.

A scholarship fund is also, being developed in dedication of him. If you would like to contribute to the Rodarte Scholarship Fund please send your donations to Exeter Union High School at 505 Rocky Hill Dr. Exeter, CA. 93221.

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