With the heat dying down, candles flickered in remembrance of Andrew Straughan, whose family, friends and a few of his fellow Marines gathered in Central Park on Sunday night.
Straughan died after a high-speed crash on the evening of July 4 in Saugus, near the intersection of Bouquet Canyon Road and Wellston Drive. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
Around 8 p.m., his family started the ceremony by talking about Straughan, and who he was as a brother and son.
“In a lot of ways… I looked up to him,” said his brother Steven. “He was an Eagle Scout, he was a Marine — an attractive, athletic young man, very charismatic and a heart of gold. I’m so proud of him that I had the honor to be his brother. He was my only brother and nothing will ever be able to replace him.”
Tiffany Embree, one of Straughan’s sisters, said that her brother worried about always being short. When he returned from the Marines, however, that was no longer the case.
“He was so tall I’d forgotten how big he’d gotten,” she said.
Straughan’s close friend Mitchell Davis spoke about his friend’s build, saying Straughan was, with a laugh, “just a twig” before joining the Marines. They grew up playing basketball and video games, going out on their longboards and wrestling with each other.
“I’m pretty sure I won every single time,” he said as family and friends laughed.
Davis spoke about being with Straughan on his last day. After a hike in the morning, they met up and Straughan wanted to fill up his vape. At first Davis resisted, but went along with his friend. Straughan asked about Davis’ family, said he loved them and wanted to be around them more often, as well as his own nephews.
Davis found out about what had happened the following day while at work.
“He died at 24 but he lived a full life,” he said. “He served our country, he traveled, he had plenty of people he touched.”
While Davis and other friends lovingly spoke of Straughan sometimes being awkward with girls or while hanging out together, his family thought of him as someone charismatic with a great sense of humor and the life of the party.
“He thought of others all the time,” said his mother, Michelle. “When he was deployed, he made sure he had flowers sent home for Mother’s Day. He would do little things like make my teas for me. I’d always call him ‘Boo-boo.’ He’d come sit on the couch, even after coming home from the Marines, and cuddle with his mother.”
A graduate of Bowman High School and an Eagle Scout from Troop 316, Straughan loved scouting and was “adventurous and loved being outdoors,” she added. Straughan’s family members, including his sister Brittany Uhl and his father Bill Straughan, handed out candles and said prayers.
“May the blessings of the Great Spirit be with you, all of you, to carry his heart today with love,” said friend of the family Frank Diaz in a prayer. “May the winds of the heavens carry Andrew safely on his journey. May the sunlight that touches our face give us that warmth of love that he had for you and the warmth of love that you show him tonight for him and his family. And until we meet again, may God hold Andrew in the palm of his hand.”
Family members confirmed plans were underway to have a funeral for Straughan at Eternal Valley Memorial Park. No information regarding the date and time was available as of this story’s publication.