Aloha teen praised for attempts to rescue boy in the surf
by: Courtesy of Beaverton School District, Friends said Ross Barfuss was a hero because he gave his life trying to rescue a child caught in a riptide on the Oregon Coast.

Aloha High School senior Sean Whitnah wants to make one thing clear, his friend Ross Barfuss was more than a 'would-be' hero.

He was the real thing.

On Saturday, Barfuss, 16, who is missing off the Oregon Coast and presumed drown, vanished into the surf at Gleneden Beach after trying to rescue an 11-year-old youth, River Jenison of Westfir, according to the Oregon State Police.

Jenison died at the hospital. As of Tuesday afternoon, Barfuss' body had not been recovered.

'A lot of the Web sites say (Ross is) a 'would-be' hero … I think it's kind of wrong to say that,' said Whitnah. 'I think you could put (down) he did die a hero.'

Friends say Barfuss entered the ocean with two other boys - Garrett Wilson, an Aloha High School sophomore, and Barfuss' younger brother, Aloha High School freshman Lance Barfuss - after someone called for help.

Whitnah was working with Ross' brother, Derek, at the Farmington Road Bale's Thriftway on Saturday when they heard the news of Ross' disappearance. Derek is a senior at Aloha High School.

'He was my friend at school and at church,' Whitnah said of Ross Barfuss.

What he'll long remember about his friend is his attitude toward life.

'He was the kind of person that was always smiling,' said Whitnah. 'He always had a good attitude.'

Whitnah also said Barfuss had a good sense of humor.

'He'd always say something funny or get people to laugh. He was really good at that.'

Sarah Smith, who was Barfuss' Sunday school teacher at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Hazeldale ward, called Barfuss a very generous, kind and well-respected young man.

She said he had made a big impact on students in her class in the short time he was in the area.

'He was well looked up to by the younger boys,' said Smith, who also is a member of the Beaverton School Board whose zone includes Aloha High School.

Both Smith and Whitnah said Barfuss sometimes wore a blue and white checkered suit to his church class.

'He was that kind of person,' said Whitnah. 'He'd like to stand out.'

A hard day

News of Barfuss' disappearance spread quickly through Aloha High School Monday.

'Today was a hard day,' Vicki Lukich, Aloha High School's principal said.

She said a counselor discussed the lost of Barfuss with students. That counselor not only knows all three of the Barfuss brothers but Wilson as well.

'He had a rough day,' said Lukich.

Lukich said students had the opportunity to write or illustrate their thoughts on cards. Also, a card was created across the street from the school at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' seminary where Barfuss attended a class every day. Lukich said some of the students who don't attend the seminary walked over to sign the card or express condolences.

During Monday night's Beaverton School Board meeting, Superintendent Jerry Colonna praised Barfuss for trying 'to save an individual he never met.'

'I've had the difficult experience of losing a child and I don't believe there's anything more difficult on this earth,' Colonna said, his voice choked with emotion. He then called for a moment of silence.

Barfuss and his family moved to Aloha in June 2007 after living eight years in the Pendleton area.

Meanwhile, Whitnah said he was not surprised that Ross tried to save someone else without regard to his own safety.

'That's the kind of thing he'd do,' said Whitnah.

A memorial service for Ross Barfuss will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 15, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building, 17140 S.W. Bany Road.

Anyone who wants to donate to help defray costs to the Barfuss family may do so at any U S Bank. The account name is 'Ross McKay Barfuss,' No. 153661059730.

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