‘Evan’s Special Night’ honors life of the late 20-year-old Evan Knoblauch
PERU — Evan Knoblauch didn’t make it there physically, but boy, was his spirit ever present.
Hundreds of friends of the Knoblauch and St. Bede families turned out for “Evan’s Special Night” at the academy.
Original plans called to have Evan share the night with everyone, his wish to get under the Friday Night Lights one last time.
Upon his passing July 10 at age 20, after a two-year battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, the event turned into a celebration of a life taken much too young, much too soon.
As planned, a caravan of nearly 100 first-responder vehicles, including fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and the like, from all around the Illinois Valley, paraded down Route 6 to the entrance of St. Bede. Leading the way was the engine from the Oglesby Fire Department for which Evan so proudly suited up for, a black ribbon and his helmet and uniform hanging from its front.
The silent reverence of flashing lights was breath-taking as the caravan proceeded down St. Bede lane with a multitude of observers paying their respects looking on.
Members of the neighboring Hall and LaSalle-Peru football teams walked in support of their brothers from St. Bede, holding “EK63” football signs.
The St. Bede class of 2017 came out in force in honor of their lost classmate.
A fly-over from a Life Flight helicopter capped the first responders’ salute to their fallen comrade.
There were plenty of tears shed and laughs made as memories of Evan were shared.
Oglesby Fire Chief Ron Popurella announced that although Evan had not fully earned his certification, trying mightily in the midst of cancer treatments, the state fire marshal waived the final requirements.
He planned to present the certification to Evan the night of July 12, but said, “God had other plans.” Upon presenting the document to Evan’s parents, Jim and Sue, and his sister, Morgan, Popurella said, “Rest easy, Evan. We’ve got it from here.”
The flag football game went on as planned, just as Evan wanted to have, even though some of the former Bruins may have forgotten the “flag” part of it.
Classmate Bryant Eustice said it was the perfect night for the perfect teammate.
“It was so awesome to see everyone come together to honor and celebrate Evan’s life. I know for sure he was laughing his butt off up in heaven watching all the old guys play ball,” he said. “He was the epitome of the perfect teammate and never worried about himself. He also never backed down from a challenge, and what else could you ask for in a person? Evan is truly a blessing to everyone he knew.”
Bill Booker, who coached Evan in both baseball and football, called it “an unbelievable night of love and support for Evan and his entire family from the entire Illinois Valley.”