Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Will Green, 23, of Sanford, Florida, died Tuesday, June 23, 2015, after a wakeboarding accident on Carters Lake in North Georgia. Will was a loving son, a devoted brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, boyfriend, and friend. He had a passion for God, family, friends, and the water. He always knew how to make others feel good about themselves, and his love for God inspired untold numbers of people who came in contact with him. Will was home schooled through his elementary school years, graduated from Forest Lake Academy in 2010, and earned a bachelor's degree in Plant Science from the University of Florida this past December. He was a true entrepreneur having started his first lawn mowing business at the age of 13, investing his money in real estate, and then creating a successful landscaping business. Will enjoyed wakeboarding, surfing, hunting, fishing, camping, and anything outdoors. Above all else, he loved spending time with his family, friends, girlfriend, and especially God. Will exemplified what it meant to be a disciple of Christ. His radiant smile and contagious laugh will be missed by all who knew him. Will is survived by his father and mother, Scott and Jennifer Green; his brother, Matt; grandparents, John and Judy Rolls, Dwan and John McAndrews, and Bill and Carole Green; aunts and uncles: Johnny Rolls, Christie and Skip Cooper, and Debra and Kevin Gilliam. He is further survived by cousins, other relatives and many friends. A visitation will be held Friday, June 26, from 6:00 - 8:00 pm at the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home West Altamonte, 90 Weathersfield Ave., Altamonte Springs. The funeral service will be held on Saturday, June 27, 2015 at 4:00 pm at Calvary Assembly at 1199 Clay Street, Winter Park. An internment will be at Highland Memory Gardens, 3329 East Semoran Blvd., Apopka. Will loved youth and spent his summers teaching wakeboarding at Cohutta Springs Youth Camp. A scholarship fund has been established in Will's memory and donations can be sent to "Live like Will" Cohutta Springs Youth Camp Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 12000 Calhuon, GA 30703.
(as read at Will’s Memorial Service)
Today we're celebrating the experiences and contributions of a young man whose life was a collection of contrasts. He was a national champion wakeboarder—but was the epitome of humility. He was deeply spiritual—but was never preachy. He lived a conservative Christian lifestyle—but was greatly loved by the university crowd with whom he associated. He was on the go all the time—but was always in touch with the needs, feelings and concerns of those with whom he interacted. He was driven to make money—but his goal was to use it to help others. He loved animals—but was an enthusiastic hunter. He loved music—but wasn’t musical. He was perpetually busy—but always available to lend a helping hand to family, friends or even strangers. He wanted to experience every positive thing this life has to offer—but sought to do it with an eye on the larger context of eternal life. I invite you to join me as, figuratively, we pause to look at just a few snapshots of this exceptional life that has greatly blessed us—but for much too short a time.
William Scott Green II made his debut at Florida Hospital Orlando on November 6, 1991, weighing in at 7 pounds and 11 ounces and measuring 21 inches long. He arrived one week earlier than the doctors had predicted—which actually fit his personality, because Will was always in a hurry to get on to the next activity. He felt most comfortable when something was happening or at least about to happen. He was never the kind to just sit around.
But let's back up just briefly. Scott Green and Jennifer Rolls both grew up in the Orlando area. They went to elementary school together. They went to high school together. They knew each other, but Scott was a couple of grades ahead of Jennifer. And a couple of years of difference at that time of life can create a major gulf. But time changes all that. And it can do it quickly.
One Sabbath three or four years after her high-school graduation, Jennifer visited Markham Woods Church, where Scott was a member. They greeted each other and shared a few pleasantries. Later that day, he phoned her and asked her out for a date that night. It seems the date went well—because eight months later he proposed. And on January 3, 1988, they were married. Three years after that major event they were overjoyed by the news that their family would be expanding.
At that time, Scott was working in construction, and Jennifer was teaching at Orlando Junior Academy. Wanting to spend as much time with her newborn as possible, and wanting her child to have the best education available, Jennifer dropped out of the paid teacher workforce to become a full-time mom and home-based teacher of her son. Some 23 months later, on October 20, 1993, Matt was born. Eighteen years would elapse before Jennifer would get back into full-time teaching—teaching full-time outside the home, that is. She home-schooled both boys until they’d completed the eighth grade.
Throughout most of his life, Will could legitimately be referred to as quiet. But for about five months of his early life that word didn’t really apply. Every night, it seemed, he screamed at the top of his lungs, plagued by colic. Only two things seemed to soothe him: taking a ride in the car, or being swung on the swing outside. Scott did a lot of driving during those months! Somewhere along the line, Jennifer had heard that colicky babies are typically good babies once they get over the colic. She placed her hopes in that prediction as she and Scott fought for a few winks of sleep—both for themselves and for Will. Fortunately, it seemed that what she’d been told was true. In fact, it became true to the point that, with both Will and Matt, people were so impressed by their quiet, non-disruptive decorum that they’d ask, “Are those kids for real? Do they always behave that well?”
In fact, when Will was about nine months old, his pediatrician told Jennifer that Will had a sanguine personality and everyone was going to love him. Whether the doctor's prediction was based on scientific evidence or some mystical prophetic gift, he couldn't have been more accurate. And it was especially true of Will’s relationship to Matt. The bond between the two brothers couldn’t have been stronger. Will was brother, friend, playmate, protector and general Rock of Gibraltar to his younger sibling, always willing to include him in everything he was doing. And Matt was Will’s constant shadow, always proud and honored to have such an amazing big brother.
Needless to say, colic wasn’t the only challenge Jennifer and Scott faced with Will. An additional challenge was convincing him to relinquish his pacifier, which he called his “pippy.” But once it was gone, his trademark characteristic—his smile—became dramatically more prominent. And that smile warmed many a heart and endeared many a person to him throughout the rest of his life. In fact, at one of the evening programs at Forest Lake Academy during Will’s Junior year there, the Freshman class was sharing their collective goals and aspirations. They stated that one of those goals was for all of them to have a smile like Will Green’s—then they flashed onto the screen a huge doctored picture of Will’s smiling face, with bursts of sunlight reflecting from his teeth!
Nothing brought a smile to young Will’s face more than the chance to be in the water. Scarcely could he walk before Scott and Jennifer had him taking swimming lessons. Such lessons were crucial in a family as “amphibious" as the Greens. Truly, they lived their lives both on land and in water. In fact, Scott, a skiing enthusiast who’d won national-level skiing competitions in his younger days and had been employed as a performance skier at Sea World for a couple of years, wanted to make sure that his young son experienced the joys to be found in skimming across the surface of water at high speeds.
So while Will was still in diapers, Scott would attach a set of diminutive skis to Will’s little feet. Running along the edge of the lake as fast as he could, Scott would tow Will on those little skis. Granted how light Will was, Scott could run fast enough to keep him skimming across the surface. It was all part of Will’s early introduction to the pleasures that only water could provide. Will needed little encouragement. He took to water activities as if they were programmed into his very DNA. Scott also made sure that the boat that was used to pull him when he was skiing was outfitted with a child’s car seat so young Will could watch as his father engaged in water sports.
Will had little trouble learning the rudiments of skiing. However, certain words were a little more problematic. “Gram,” the name used for Jennifer's mother, Judy, was just a little too difficult. But Will could come close. So he always called her “Bam." And that's what she's called to this day. And not just by Will, but by Matt and his parents as well. Will greatly loved, and was greatly loved by, his grandparents on both sides. Not to mention how much he was loved by his aunts, uncles and cousins. Of course, the prophet/pediatrician had predicted that everyone was going to love him!
Although water sport—particularly wakeboarding—was clearly Will’s favorite pastime and the one in which he most excelled, he had a broad range of interest in highly adventurous and somewhat risky activities. He loved animals in general, but especially horses. At five or six years of age, he began taking riding lessons. In great measure because of his interest, the family began attending rodeos and other activities that featured horses prominently. The Greens would often go to the family camp at Camp Kulaqua in North Florida. One of the features of the camp was a little amateur rodeo in which the campers were the cowboys and cowgirls. Will began participating in that rodeo when he was seven years old. Of course, because of his interest, and because Matt was so impressed by his older brother, Matt was soon into horses and associated activities as well. Whatever Will was doing, Matt wanted to be doing it also.
Will’s interest in horses and rodeos meant that the Greens had to get horses, a trailer and all the other paraphernalia that was required for such activities. Jennifer spent considerable time on the road taking her boys up to Palatka, where they could learn the fine art of the lasso. Will participated in the junior rodeos that were held in the area. This included such high-thrill activities as steer riding. The steers weren’t as menacing as the bulls ridden by adults, but they posed enough danger—as Will discovered when one threw him off, stepped on his wrist and broke it.
Two weeks after the cast was removed, the horse he was riding spooked and threw him off, rebreaking his wrist. But Will never let such mishaps distract him from what he enjoyed doing. When he reached high school, however, it was no longer possible to participate in the rodeo competitions only on Sunday. Unwilling to violate his belief in the sacredness of the seventh-day Sabbath, his interest in rodeo competition began to wane, though he still liked horses, roping and riding.
Another form of riding that had early captured young Will’s attention was motocross, which he did with Matt and with Griffin and Judson Prusia and Scott and Jeffrey Brownlow. He started out with a 50cc motorbike and soon moved up to one that was 80cc. Whatever the activity, if it included adventure, challenge and risk, he was ready and willing. However, riding a motorized vehicle didn't capture his imagination as much as riding a horse and trying to achieve certain goals while interacting with a live animal. Moreover, if it was a matter of an activity on land or on water, water definitely had an appeal that was hard to surpass. So Jennifer took Will to the Bill Peterson Ski School to learn about wakeboarding. Scott had been Bill’s first student, and Will and Matt were his last. The father and sons duo served as bookends, as it were, marking the ski school’s beginning and end.
Will also gained a great amount of knowledge about wakeboarding from his cousin Kyle Cooper. When Will was 13, Kyle took him to wakeboard camp at Cohutta Springs in Georgia, where Kyle served as a wakeboard instructor. Going to the camp and receiving Kyle’s instruction whetted Will’s appetite all the more for wakeboarding. Being a driven person, Will was never willing to settle for just so-so. When he returned home, he would watch videos of how the various maneuvers were done. He would then go out to the trampoline to test them. He would view the video again and test the maneuvers again.
This went on until he had tried the maneuvers over and over to perfect them on the trampoline so he could definitely execute them when he transferred his attempts to the wakeboard, on the water, behind a boat. Jennifer describes his commitment to improving his skill as being “super-focused.” Of course, perfecting such complicated maneuvers required a wakeboard boat instead of a ski boat, because the former provided a dramatically greater wake, which would allow the wakeboarder to launch higher for whatever maneuver he wanted to do. So Scott got rid of the family ski boat and got a wakeboard boat instead.
For five consecutive years, Will and Matt went to camp at Cohutta Springs to participate as campers in the wakeboard activities and to be instructed. Even while still attending as a camper, Will had already surpassed the skill level of his instructors. So it was only natural that when he turned 18 and could function as an instructor, he did so. This year would have been his sixth year as an instructor. But there was more to Will than just wakeboarding.
At a very early age, Will developed an interest in country music. If he rode in his father's pickup, that was what he was likely to hear on the radio. If he rode in his mother's car, he would encounter character-building stories, Bible readings and Christian music. So he developed an interest in both genres of music. When he was nine years old, he went to his first country-music concert, in West Palm Beach. There he got to listen to Alan Jackson. When people would ask him what he wanted to do when he grew up, he would say that he wanted to be a singer like Alan Jackson. When he heard Jackson and other recording artists singing on the radio, he liked to sing along. Although he never got any country-music recording contracts—with reason!—he did get Alan Jackson to sign a white cowboy hat for him, which still adorns his bedroom.
Another major achievement also came when Will was nine years old: He shot his first wild turkey. A couple of years later, he shot his first deer. Both the turkey and the deer head and antlers were taken to a taxidermist and are on display in his bedroom, along with an array of awards that he won by participating in wakeboarding competitions.
As with his rodeo riding, he found that his unwillingness to participate in wakeboarding competitions on Sabbath limited how far he could go up the performance ladder—effectively shutting the door to the pro circuit. In the collegiate competitions, however, he fared much better. On several occasions, Will thought he was going to have to settle for third or fourth place because the finals or semi-finals were to be held on Saturday. But it seemed that something always worked out so he was able to participate. One of the most gratifying experiences for him happened in May of this year when his fellow University of Florida teammates took the initiative to request an accommodation on his behalf. The competition schedule was changed, enabling him to participate and place first in the National Collegiate Wakeboarding Championship, a truly high point in his life. Although his collegiate teammates didn’t observe Sabbath, they had great respect for Will’s religious conviction to do so.
Will liked to camp. He liked to sleep in a tent or in a hammock slung between two trees. He liked to have nothing but space between him and the stars. He had spent years as a Pathfinder, and campouts were a huge part of what he enjoyed about Pathfindering. Will was always the chief organizer whenever he and his friends went camping or on some other outdoor adventure. Although nothing was too rugged for him, he was solicitous of females who were being dragged through the wilderness. His friends remember one situation in particular when they’d arrived at a camp site via a canoe or boat, and the campsite was muddy. Will immediately set about gathering palm fronds to lay down to create a walkway for the women.
On another occasion, only a week after Matt Manzari had been released from the hospital following four months of skin grafts and rehab after having been badly burned by electrocution, Will found himself with Matt and Matt’s pregnant wife, Bobbye, out alligator hunting. Will couldn’t hide his amazement. “I can’t believe I have a burn victim and his pregnant wife out here doing this!” he said, shaking his head in total disbelief.
When out in nature, Will was fearless—or at least he knew how to hide his fear well! On one alligator-hunting trip, the battery on the boat’s trolling motor went flat. (Now keep in mind, the group was out alligator hunting!) But without hesitation, Will leapt out of the boat and walked through the waist-deep, alligator-infested water, dragging the boat behind him. That was doable because he was in his element when facing the wilds of nature or the challenges of water sports. But he was far more intimidated whenever he felt the spotlight was on him. At her wedding, his cousin Blair asked him to dance with her. He reluctantly agreed. After a minute or so of going through hesitant motions that only vaguely resembled dancing, he said, “Do we have to dance through the entire song?”
But there were times when he surprised everyone. For example, Jennifer was a sponsor for the senior-class cruise, so both she and Scott were along. To her surprise, when they gathered for one of the worships, the moderator of the meeting said, “And now Will Green will present our worship talk.” Will talked about love, sharing insights that greatly impressed his stunned parents. Then he quoted, from memory and word for word, the entire chapter of the Bible on which he’d based his talk. It was a proud moment for Scott and Jennifer.
The background to his memorization was that Pastor Derek Morris had told a story about his wife’s grandfather, who’d had difficulty reading. But he’d been told that if he memorized portions of scripture, it would help him with his reading. Will, who also had some reading difficulty, decided to put the theory to the test. It could achieve two goals at one time—help him read better and commit important biblical thoughts to memory. And it wasn’t just for the worship on the cruise that he did it. Matt tells of being on a plane when Will handed him a Bible and said, “I’m trying to memorize some Psalms. Follow along to see that I’m getting it right.” Then he just kept going and going—stunning Matt with how many of the psalms he’d memorized.
One of Will’s friends, Reed Hansen, says that at their Bible study, whenever Will said something, everything went really quiet—for two reasons: First, Will spoke so quietly you had to be still to hear him! Second, and more significant, when Will said something, it was worth listening to. Scott Brownlow looks back fondly at weekly Bible studies Will led in the parking lot of Forest Lake Academy. He and Scott would lower the tailgates on their trucks and back them up close to each other, with the lowered tailgates providing the “pews” on which the Bible-study participants could sit. They called their truck-based gathering place the “Tailgate Tabernacle.”
In March of 2014, both Matt and Will were groomsmen when Carli Hoover and Troy Lippert got married in Savannah. One of Carli’s bridesmaids was Ashley Nelson—who more than one groomsman took note of and hoped to be paired up with! Having studied in the Midwest and working in California at the time, Ashley was a new face even to those who had interacted with her years earlier. Will liked what he saw and made the occasional comment to her whenever it seemed natural and he could summon the courage. He even asked her to dance with him at the reception, an activity that ranked high on his definitely-not-comfortable list, which gives some idea of the degree of his motivation!
After the reception, the groomsmen all went back to where they were staying. Will took off his tux and all the associated paraphernalia and lay down on the bed. Somehow the word filtered through to him that Ashley might be available to talk to. So he routed out of bed, put the tux back on, along with all its accessories, and headed off to see her. With the festivities over, she returned to work in California, and he returned to Orlando. But they began regularly texting each other.
Will visited her in California when the Greens went west for a wedding. The relationship grew to phone calls. Then more prolonged phone calls. Then Ashley broke her elbow and came back to Central Florida because she couldn’t work anyway. That allowed them to spend a lot more time together. The relationship grew even more. Several times Will talked to his parents about her. Clearly, she was playing a more and more prominent role in his current life and in his future plans.
One of the many things that attracted Ashley to Will was his big-heartedness: He lived for others. “Will was one of the most driven people I’ve ever met,” she says. “He wanted to be successful so he could have money to help people. That’s what drove him.” And it truly was.
About two and a half years ago, Will was looking for a business opportunity and ended up, through an unexpected turn of events, buying a small trailer park. But for Will it wasn’t just a business. It was a ministry. He refereed the residents’ squabbles and tried to help them in any way he could. Recently he called his dad because one of the residents’ air conditioner wasn’t working—which wasn’t Will’s problem because he rented only the place to park the trailer. But he wanted to know the name of an AC man who could look at it—because some other technician had said it would cost a huge amount of money to repair. When the AC man Scott recommended checked it out, he explained that it was really a minor problem and would cost very little to fix. Will was on cloud nine—because someone who couldn’t afford to spend lots of money was going to be able to avoid a financial crisis. And he had been able to play a role in making it happen.
When the family was reminiscing to provide material for this life sketch, Will’s cousin Gray Sehnert said: “I don’t have a single bad story to tell or a single bad memory to share. I was the older cousin, but I looked up to him. He played a big and positive role in my life.”
John Rolls, Jennifer’s father, told how just a couple of weeks ago he informed Will that he was selling a trailer park that he (John) runs. Will asked why. John explained that it probably was at about peak value right now and he had an interested buyer. But mainly he wanted to be rid of it so “Bam” wouldn’t have to worry about it when he was gone. “Don’t worry about ‘Bam,’ Will said to his grandfather, “because when you’re gone, I’ll take care of her as long as I live.”
Kevin Davidson, husband of Will’s cousin Blair, said that whenever he spent time with Will he would come back to Blair and say, “That kid is awesome—he’s just a 23-year-old, yet I look up to him. Sometimes we think about people who are still alive at an old age and comment on the influence they’ve had, but Will’s had more influence than most people ever will—and he’s done it in 23 years.”
Matt described Will as “such a good older brother who would do anything for me. He acted like he was fearless. He was so selfless and would make sure I was included in everything. It wasn’t like he didn’t want his little brother around, but would let me participate in everything. And he was never embarrassed to have his little brother around.” Matt said he loved to be able to tell everyone that he was Will Green’s brother.
As already mentioned, Will was always interested in what the next activity was going to be. Jennifer describes how when the boys were young and she was home-schooling them, she would go into their rooms at night to read with them, tell stories, hug them, kiss them good night or just lie down beside them and talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. But at some point Will would invariably ask: “What are we doing tomorrow?” And even when Will had his own schedule, his own activities, his own transportation and far less direct interaction with the family, he would still ask what Scott and Jennifer were doing the next day or over the weekend.
Will is no longer here to ask that question. But in a way, Scott, Jennifer, Matt, the extended family and countless friends are going to be answering that question every day. How? By what we do. Because we’re all going to be looking forward more intently than ever to the return of Jesus, to the resurrection and to that grand promised reunion when we will once again hear Will’s gentle voice, feel his warm embrace and be buoyed by his trademark smile—never again to be parted.
Please, Lord Jesus, come quickly.