Dakota Leach Remembered as Bright, Humble Young Man
Dakota Leach was a new sophomore to Sequim High this year. Students welcomed him with open arms and open hearts, but they never would have guessed that they would know him for such a short time. After only a few weeks at SHS, Dakota passed away on Sunday, Sept. 25. (At the time of publication, the official cause of death was still unknown.)
His death shocked SHS, but his life had much more of an impact.
Mrs. Harker, a Sequim High counselor, was one of the first to meet Dakota and the Leach family as they registered for school. “The whole family was just very personable and comfortable,” Harker said. She could tell right away that Dakota would fit in here at SHS.
In no time at all, Dakota was making friends. “He was super outgoing and he would just talk to anyone no matter what,” said Rikki Lehman, a sophomore. Lehman got close with him in the short amount of time that she knew him and the news of Dakota’s death came as a shock.
Lehman was crushed but slowly found ways to cope. “I wrote him a letter and talking with my friends really helped,” she said.
On Monday the 26th, a large banner was in the conference room waiting for students to sign and give their final goodbyes. Monday afternoon approached quickly and the banner was already covered in heartfelt, lengthy last words.
On Wednesday, the banner, which was hung at the funeral, the cards that students had made and a flower bouquet, were brought to the Leach family by Mrs. Harker, her daughter Kate and other members of the staff. “It was, in itself, just reassuring to see them and be there with them,” Harker said.
Thursday the 29th, was a day of remembering with the student body encouraged to wear red, Dakotas’ favorite color. During first period, over 500 students gathered for a group photo that would later be given to his family. Also, according to adviser Mr. Heintz, Dakota will be given a small spread in this year’s yearbook, so that his short time here will always be remembered.
At the funeral, also on that Thursday, dozens of students attended to pay their respects. “The one hope I have is that the family knows just how much we’ll support them,” Harker said.
Although Dakota was only known at SHS for less than a month, no one could have imagined what a positive and huge impact he would have on the students and staff. “He was such a vibrant individual,” Mr. Davis, one of Dakota’s teachers, said. He often had pre-class chats with Dakota about music and drums.
Mrs. Bell described him as a “ray of sunshine” and said he always came to class eager to learn and participate.
SHS will always remember and cherish the time they spent with the sweet kid from Georgia named Dakota Leach.
“You would walk away (from him) feeling like a better person, that’s a gift,” Harker said.