Johnny's Legacy

Johnny Von Der Ahe was a 15 year old boy at the beginning of his life journey. He was a thriving freshman in high school, he had just gotten his driver's permit, and he was planning and looking forward to a summer of travel and adventure with his family when it was all taken from him in an instant. Johnny was killed when he was hit by a car on July 1, 2020 while skateboarding infront of his home with his little brothers and a dear friend.

Johnny was a kid full of life and a quest for adventure. He lived each day to the fullest. He woke most mornings before dawn to ride his bike to the beach to surf with younger brothers Jack and Charlie, friends, and the local surf community. When he wasn’t at the beach he was in the mountains water skiing or snowboarding with his brothers, cousins and friends. He lived to enjoy the ride of life – wherever that ride took him. Johnny had a huge passion for the oceans, lakes and rivers – playing, fishing, and taking photos in them. He dreamed of working in the water somehow. He often fantasized about being able to combine his passion for photography with his love of the water and its creatures. He spoke about being anything from a Surf Photographer to a Marine Biologist. He was also a huge animal lover – especially dogs. He wanted to adopt every dog he ever met or saw on social media. We often referred to him as the “dog whisperer” because any dog he met was immediately drawn to him. This summer Johnny was scheduled to start service training with his beloved dog Koda. He was looking forward to taking Koda to the local Children’s Hospital and VA to cheer up patients and staff.

Johnny dreamed of traveling. He dreamed of adventure. He dreamed of seeing new places, trying new things, eating new foods and making new memories. He was lucky to spend many regular vacations with his large family and friends in his favorite places - Hawaii, Mammoth, Park City, Jackson Hole and Lake Arrowhead. Those towns will definitely be quieter without his large presence there.

Johnny was silly and loud and joyfully lived each day to the fullest. He never let any opportunities go by. He had many friends from all over town. He did not discriminate or choose peer groups. He was a friend to everyone he met. He never held a grudge or judgement and called everyone a friend. We have been blessed with many cards and letters from kids whom he touched telling of his kindness and understanding. The way we most often described Johnny was “big hearted” and now we know just how big hearted he was with all the lovely stories we’ve been told of unsolicited help or encouragement, unexpected friendship, or even just a simple smile that he seems to have shared with everyone.
Johnny has two younger brothers, Jack and Charlie. Born within three years of each other, Johnny, Jack and Charlie were extremely close. They fought, like most brothers do, but Johnny loved to surf, ski, fish, skate and play video games with his brothers. He also has 20 cousins, 14 aunts and uncles, 4 grandparents and a Husky. His family was everything to him. He went out of his way to see family members each and every day. Whether it was to go surfing or fishing, swimming or gaming, or impromptu visits to his grandparent’s house to play cards, he went out of his way to see family members each and every day. Family and family traditions were the most important and joyful part of his life. He looked forward to family dinner with cousins on Sunday nights. He couldn’t wait for family birthday celebrations and family vacations. He started planning for Christmas on December 26th, counting the days until the next Christmas Eve at Grandma’s and Christmas Day at home with his Baba and Grandad. He cherished every moment with his family and friends, often pushing and hounding them to get up and go even when they didn’t want to. It was always time to get out and enjoy the ride. He was competitive and encouraging at the same time. Always cheering everyone on to catch the next wave, to hook the big fish, to ride faster. Yelling “let’s goooo!” to whomever just won or lost, went first or last…to anyone and everyone he was with.

Johnny’s favorite color was green. Since he was a baby he always chose green – clothes, toys, crayons, food, etc. It’s always been fascinating to us that his favorite color reflects his personality so perfectly. Green is the color of the heart, of love and compassion. Green is the color of abundance, growth and of nature. In his teen years Johnny started to love the color pink, as well. Equally interesting because pink too is a color of love and compassion, nurturing and understanding. That was Johnny – a big, bright spirit that lived to get outside in nature and share his passion, excitement and love and compassion with everyone he met.

Johnny's biggest legacy is the life he gave to five organ transplant recipients. He saved five lives, five families, when he donated his healthy kidneys and liver, his strong and powerful lungs, and his wonderful beating heart. By donating his vital organs Johnny lives on today. The gift of time, memories, of life to the recipients and their families is Johnny's enduring legacy.

Paddle Out

July 10, 2020