FARGO — Whether it was in the pool or on a cross-country course, families at Fargo North High School remember Brian Bunnell, who was funny, smart and successful in any sport he signed up for.
On Thursday, Dec. 29, Bunnell's longtime swim and cross-country coaches paged through yearbooks from Fargo North. Bunnell was everywhere. Often a captain of his swim and cross-country teams, he was an athlete who held records for years. Swing Dress
"He had self-confidence right off the bat," said longtime Fargo North cross-country coach Gary Mailloux. "He had work ethic, (and) he was multi-sport."
But coaches like Mailloux, Skip Fisher and Dick Fisher say the success didn't stop there.
"He knew how to compete, and he did it very smartly," said Skip Fisher, Bunnell's former swim coach.
"As good of an athlete, he's a better person ... and he was that way since the moment he stepped on the (pool) deck as a seventh grader," said Dick Fisher, another former swim coach of Bunnell's.
Bunnell died Christmas Day snowboarding with his boys. All of them got caught up in the avalanche.
Two of the boys were partially buried and got out, but by the time they got to their dad, he had died.
They snowboarded together often. Bunnell, a longtime teacher living in Colorado, lived to be with his family outdoors.
"To watch him do what he did as a kid with his sons. None of them were swimmers, but they were mountain bikers, they were snow skiers, they were ski racers, they were snow boarders. It was just really cool to see, because Brian could hang with them, and it was really neat to see that experience that he got as a father," said longtime friend and former teammate Nick Nerland.
Nerland was lifelong friends with Bunnell — from Longfellow Elementary School to time as swimming teammates in high school.
"He was just a welcoming person, a super hard worker, very motivational, but just always inclusive," Nerland said.
Bunnell's family said they are working through the loss and heartache by sharing stories of this father, son and husband. Who, one friend said, lived to live, not just exist.
Sports Shirt Memorial services are scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 3, in Golden, Colorado.