LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Members of the public were invited to attend a candlelight vigil remembering Jacob Stover Wednesday night.
Family and friends met at the base of the Big Four Bridge, lit red, to remember the 16-year-old whose body was found in the Ohio River nearly two months after he was reported missing.
Stover left his home in Prospect to go kayaking on Jan. 10, but he never returned. Family, friends and strangers volunteered their boats and time to search for the teen once he was reported missing.
While his kayak was found the next day, his body was not discovered until March 9, when a tugboat operator spotted a body near the Newburgh Dam — about 111 miles southwest of Louisville.
Everyone in attendance wore red, Stover's favorite color.
Stover's mom, Melissa, said the family chose to hold the vigil at the big four Lawn because it was a spot the teen enjoyed.
"He loved it down here," she said.
The family had searched for two months with volunteers and a number of different agencies to find Stover.
"It's been so hard and there's no other word for it but agonizing," Stover's father Shawn said. "The support that we've gotten though has been nothing but amazing we couldn't have done a tenth of what we accomplished without everybody coming out and helping us and supporting us."
"Not knowing was horrible," Melissa said. "We can start to heal in a different way now because we know and we don't have to wonder where he is."
Thankful he's returned home, the family gathered with friends, Stover's classmates and other supporters to remember him beyond the search.
"The world was better because he was in it," one of Stover's friends said during the vigil ceremony.
"He was just an amazing person overall and he'll live in my heart forever," another friend said.
Stover's parents said they don't have full closure, but they hoped that bringing the community together to honor him, would provide a small sense of closure for others who loved him.
"I want him to be remembered for the excitement of life a 16-year-old has and the world was his and he was going to take it," Shawn said. "He loved life and there were so many things he wanted to do unfortunately he wasn't given the chance to."
Stover's passions for art, fishing, and skiing were all the key to a smile on Stover's face, according to his parents.
"I would've never have thought he'd be as passionate about some of the things that he was. Fishing became such a big thing for him," Shawn said.
"Everything that he did was just 'one more, just one more cast, one more time down the ski slope,'" Melissa said.
The Stover family said they are currently in the process of planning a celebration of life memorial for Stover, to be held in mid-April.