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Family, friends mourn passing of Enick

Tulalip Tribal member Johnny Enick, seen here hard at work as a radio journalist, was laid to rest Aug. 7. - courtesy photo
Tulalip Tribal member Johnny Enick, seen here hard at work as a radio journalist, was laid to rest Aug. 7.
— image credit: courtesy photo

TULALIP — The friends, family and fellow Tulalip Tribal members of Johnny Enick said farewell to the 23-year-old Aug. 7, after his body was recovered earlier that week from the Stillaguamish River.

Enick was last seen alive Aug. 2 in the Big Rock area of the Stillaguamish River, and his body was recovered Aug. 4 in that same area by Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office divers, with no signs of foul play, according to Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Rebecca Hover. Family members and friends from the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club helped the Sheriff’s Office look for Enick, and when his body was found, Sheriff’s deputies allowed his friends to honor tribal tradition by carrying his body to a vehicle.

On Aug. 7, those who knew Enick focused not on how he died, but on how he lived. Diane Prouty, administrative assistant for the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, recalled Enick as a committed longtime volunteer and mentor to younger children, while Robin Carneen, in charge of the Tulalip Youth Multimedia Club, characterized him as instinctively gifted at journalism.

“He lived for the Tar Heels, so his family is burying him in his Tar Heels jersey,” Prouty laughed. “They even got matching shirts in the same Tar Heels baby blue color.”

Enick joined the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club in his preteens, and Prouty admitted that even she would forget occasionally how much work he did on behalf of the club.

“I just remembered the other day that he was one of our volunteer basketball coaches for the 6 and 7-year-olds,” Prouty said. “He was so passionate. If you ever needed help at any time, you didn’t even have to ask him, because he would ask you. He’d come in before his work shift, he’d work his shift, and then he’d just stay there. He was always picking up garbage and coloring with the kids and helping out any way he could. He touched the lives of every person who walked through our doors.”

Prouty acknowledged that Enick was “trying to find himself” and “choose the right path,” but she pointed out that he was working toward his GED, planning to return to the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club after a year away, and taking steps toward a career as a radio journalist. Her voice choked as she shared a conversation with Enick’s father, who told her that the family would be driving his body past “his home, and he told me, ‘I mean the Boys and Girls Club.’ I was stunned.”

Carneen met Enick three years ago through the Tulalip Youth Multimedia Club, which offered Boys and Girls Club members the opportunity to broadcast their reports on First People’s Radio, Carneen’s La Conner-based, Native American-centric program.

“He could be funny and engaging, but he could also be really quiet and introspective,” Carneen said. “He was very serious and didn’t like bothering other people with his problems. He was finding his own way and getting his feet under him as an adult. He latched onto media with an interest that made it easy for me to mentor him, and he had such a natural ability. He always knew how to formulate a great interview question and he could do it on the fly, from first contact.”

Carneen explained that Enick gave thought to questions of how accurately the media represented him and other Native peoples to the world, and she praised his knack for leadership that she witnessed among his peers. She elaborated that his youth helped him connect with many of his interview subjects, in ways that Carneen admitted she could not.

“He was never afraid to ask the wrong question, and he addressed the youth perspective,” Carneen said. “He would have liked to have gotten his high school education out of the way, but sometimes, life gets in our way. He never gave up on it, though, and he encouraged others to stick with it as well.”

Carneen believes that Enick’s skills and understanding as a journalist were in evidence when he listened to the stories of activist groups, “and you could see on his face, as he sat there smiling with his headphones on, that he was really getting it. He wanted to serve as a catalyst of understanding for his own listeners.”

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