Recalling a musician, a friend
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror
Willows — Shawn Simleness had known Steven Furtado since junior high school, but the two only really became close over last summer.
“I was dating a girl named Caroline (Whyler). He was dating a girl named Grace (Waggoner). I was able to hang out with Steven a lot because our girlfriends were best friends.”
“Over the summer we went bowling together every weekend. We all rode horses together up in my girlfriend or his girlfriend’s house. We always did active stuff, we’d go ride horses, or go bowling, or go to Chico.”
“I didn’t really talk to him (before) I started dating Caroline. That brought us together. I got to see him at work, every day. Sometimes we would go out to lunch, or I’d help him out with band, we’d move stuff to a concert.”
“We weren’t best friends, but we were comfortable around each other.”
“He never bothered anyone. He wasn’t one of the kids who spread rumors. Some of the kids talked, reminisced, he was always focused. I didn’t know everything about him, but he was a nice guy, and there was no reason to hate him.”
The two worked together at Sani-Food until Shawn quit in December. “He was always on target. He was a good worker, always knew what to do.”
After the tragedy, Shawn visited again his old workplace to talk about Shawn.
“Everyone was family, and we all loved one another. It’s like a family member when one of them dies. It’s hard to see them go.”
The two played different instruments in band, but Shawn recalls Steven as a “wonderful, great musician.
“Looking back, he influenced me to do better. He was a hard worker; he inspired me to do more.
“I’ve grown with him musically.
“He would always be on time in zero period – go in before school and practice,” Shawn said. “He was really focused, he had a goal …
“He was a good guy. He would always use sarcasm when you talked to him, but that’s just Steven, being a smart ass.”
“I’d go on into school every week, and he’d have a different hair color. People would make fun of him, but wasn’t afraid to be himself.
“In junior high, come Monday, you’d see Steven walking down the hallway, and he’d have bright red hair on top of his head. I’d go on into school every week, and he’d have a different hair color. He wasn’t afraid of what other people thought of him. Some people were afraid to be themselves, but Steven didn’t care.
“I think it’s just unfair that he had to go. He didn’t deserve to go.”
“He was smart, hard worker, shy, but once you get to know him.…”
One mother speculated that the kids would have “no more tears to cry” after the summer 2006 death of Brian Parks and April death of Kayla Arnold, each members of the Willows High class of 2008.
“I don’t know, I can’t say that,” Shawn replied. “I cried. I knew Steven more than I knew Brian and I knew Kayla. I saw a lot of people upset. He was important to a lot of people.”
Shawn’s never experienced death in his family; for him, the deaths have gotten harder.
“When Brian died, the thought of never seeing his face again hurt,” he said Monday. “I never knew him, but I saw him around school.
“With Kayla – I knew her, hung out with her, talked with her,” he continued. “With Steven, it was even harder.”
“It’s getting sadder every time. Hopefully this is the last time.”
“It doesn’t get old.”
Asked Monday about Tuesday’s vigil:
“I’m going to anything I can,” Shawn said. “We’re all in this together, we all grew up with Steven together, and I think we should all be together.”
He remembers his friend’s mastery of diverse areas.
“In wood shop, all of the kids would be sitting at the table, talking, or doing homework, ‘cause they needed the teacher’s help,” Shawn recalled. “Not Steven, he would always be working. He’d have a whole dresser in a week, or a whole entertainment center in two weeks.”
Why was he so good?
“He was so devoted to it. He was devoted to anything he was active too. He was the best person in wood shop. The first trumpet.
“He was a good bowler. He always whupped our ass. He tried to do his best at anything. He doesn’t give up, just keeps trying hard at everything.”
“He does golf, football. If he has a desire to be something, he does it. I don’t have any doubt that if this hadn’t happened, he would have been very successful in the future, because he knew how to be a leader.”
County Health Services director Scott Gruendl said at a Monday press conference that Steven’s death might be harder for students to deal with than the two previous natural cause deaths in the class.
“This is the taking of a life,” he said.
Mr. Gruendl speculatively cited the example of Jennifer Carrigan’s brother, who crashed on the way home after hearing the news and later succumbed to his injuries.
When life is taken “in a senseless way,” he added, it’s more easy for emotions to get out of control.
“With murder, it’s definitely harder,” he said. “It kind of makes you angry, because a good person died for no reason. Because of a jealous ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend.”
“The picture in my head of him and his girlfriend being murdered, it just sounds like a horror movie in my head,” Shawn said. “It affects a lot of people differently, but I think the fact of him being murdered affects a lot of people harder.
The event was being talked at during school, “like an ‘oh my god,’ ‘I’m in shock’, ‘it’s not real.’”
“He’s not involved with any gangs or anything. Him being stabbed – a lot of people will talk about it. You never expect anyone to do it.”
“What really hurts me is when I went to Brian’s candle-lighting. I saw Steven crying, and I gave him a hug. We were there for each other. It sucks to go to his.
“It was the same with Kayla. It reminded me a lot of last time, and now we have to do it all over again.”