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Young man remembered for faith, warmth

POULSBO — In Gunnar Strum his friends found a unique balance of warmth and honesty, of love and tenacity, fearlessness and faith.

And the 19-year-old had a lot of friends.

Strum died Wednesday after collapsing on the beach at Point No Point Park at about 3 p.m. Strum had been skimboarding on the shore and had just decided to quit for the day when he collapsed. Friends and an aid crew from Hansville spent more than 30 minutes attempting to revive him.

Investigators found no evidence of drug or alcohol use — his friends said he wasn’t interested in that lifestyle — said Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

An autopsy was performed Thursday, but a cause of death is pending further tests, the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office reported.

“He put more life in 19 years than most people put in 100,” said his father, Bob Strum.

The Strum family has known tragedy before. Gunnar’s younger brother, Hayden, died of cancer about 10 years ago. Through Hayden’s sickness — he died before his seventh birthday — Gunnar stood as a pillar of strength for his brother and his parents.

He invented games to play with his little brother, careful to not injure the already fragile boy. He also took saline shots in front of his brother to show that needles weren’t scary, never flinching.

At Hayden’s memorial his parents helped him prepare a speech to deliver.

“The 9-year-old got up to the podium and closed the piece of paper,” delivering a stirring farewell without notes, said his mother, Kathleen Strum.

Gunnar loved motocross, and had a future in the sport until injuries sidelined him. At 16 he made the decision to put his energy elsewhere, a decision that demonstrated a level of maturity of which many grown men are incapable, his mother said. But he still could not resist taking the occasional ride.

“If there was a bike, and there were girls, he would ride it,” said Bob Strum.

He also had developed into a competent drummer and pianist, liked rock and roll but had an ear keen enough to identify classical composers.

He was a member of New Life Church, where he volunteered as a youth leader, and was waiting to transfer to Seattle Pacific University, where he planned to finish his undergraduate studies before applying for law school. It was a career choice that suited him fine.

Kathleen Strum recalled his gift of persuasion.

“I remember trying to ground him at age 12 and he found a loophole,” she said.

Friends of Gunnar gathered at his house Thursday afternoon to tell stories and support each other. All marveled at the young man whose adventurousness and faith filled their lives.

Family friend Debbie Lindgren had known Gunnar since he was born and remained in awe of him.

“From his first breath that boy was art in motion,” she said.

Lindgren’s son, Bryan, spent his boyhood with Gunnar playing in the woods and reenacting Mariners’ games. The two were described as Huck and Tom.

“He was Huck, definitely,” Bryan said.

A memorial for Gunnar Strum is scheduled for 3 p.m., July 29 at the Christ Memorial Church in Poulsbo, 18901 8th Ave NE. Kathleen Strum that in lieu of flowers donations in Gunnar’s name be sent to the American Cancer Society’s Camp Good Times.

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