CHARLOTTESVILLE — His football coach Jim O’ Hara said he remembers him as a first-class athlete with the most enormous personality on the team.
His best friend Wesley Myers said he remembers him by the mischievous nights they spent together, whether it was racing across Walmart parking lots riding in shopping carts or staying up way too late eating pizza and playing video games.
Eastern Hancock High School will remember Riley Settergren as a brother, son and friend who cared greatly about being a force for good in his community.
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Before the Royals’ boys basketball game against Hagerstown this past Friday night, Eastern Hancock High School retired the football jersey of Riley Settergren, who was killed in a car accident July 26.
The uniform, a royal blue No. 30 signed by the team’s players and coaches, was presented to the family in his honor on Eastern Hancock’s senior night.
The booster club also made a $1,200 donation to the Riley Charles Settergren Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the Settergren family that benefits local school’s athletic programs, 4-H groups and other organizations that Riley loved.
It was fitting to honor Riley’s memory, said Dave Pfaff, principal of Eastern Hancock High School. Riley, who would have received varsity letters in football, wrestling and track, was universally loved by the student body for his positive energy and cheerful attitude, Pfaff said.
“I think that Riley was a very important part of us,” Pfaff said. “He was part of the fabric of the school.”
In an email to the Daily Reporter, Wesley Myers said he’d been close to Riley since the seventh grade. They grew up together in the same tight-knit group of friends on the football team, which they nicknamed the “wolf pack,” and Riley was always the life of the party, he said.
Off the football field, whenever the friends had class together, their wolf pack often got lectured by the teacher for goofing around too much, Wesley said.
After practice the group spent every moment they could together, usually managing to get themselves in some sort of trouble, Wesley said. Several of their hi-jinks had some strange consequences, he recalled.
“Riley was … a poison ivy magnet,” Wesley said. “He would just get it out of nowhere, and it would be all over the place. Somehow that didn’t stop us all from sleeping in the same bed when all of us guys would stay together.”
After Riley’s death, the wolf pack got matching tattoos of a wolf paw in honor of their lost friend.
For the retirement ceremony, Riley’s father, Jay, his brother, Chase, and his mother, Tammy, stood alongside O’Hara, the Royals’ former football coach, at the center of the court.
O’Hara offered them Riley’s Jersey. The family was thrilled by the school reaching out to them with such a gesture, Jay Settergren said.
Tammy Settergren said it was tough to watch the athletes in the class of 2018 walk across the gym floor one by one to be recognized for their accomplishments. When Riley’s turn came and the family was gifted the jersey, the packed gymnasium erupted with applause.
“(I’m) sad but honored to know that we did something right all those years as a parent,” Tammy Settergren said. “Honored but really sad…” she trailed off, choking back tears.
It was a bittersweet night for everyone, Jay Settergren continued for his wife. The strength the community has offered his family in coping with Riley’s loss is not something they ever expect to repay, but through the nonprofit they hope to give back as much as they can.
The funds donated to Riley’s foundation was just another example of how they were blessed to have the community rally behind them for support, Jay Settergren said. Through their efforts, Riley’s passion and memory will live on for years to come, he said.
“Obviously we would trade anything to have him here,” Jay Settergren said. “But you know, it’s one of those things; the love in this community is phenomenal.”
Wesley said signing the jersey for the Settergrens was difficult. He acknowledged the number would no longer see the football field, but it was in that moment Wesley knew he’d never see his friend wear that jersey again.
“It was a very emotional moment but I’m glad they retired it because Riley will always be Eastern Hancock’s No. 30,” Wesley said.