Jonathan Scholz lived life with gusto. His mother, Ginna Scholz, said he lived every day completely unafraid for what it may have in store.
"I know it sounds cliché, but Johnny loved life," Ginna said. "He embraced it with everything he had."
Jonathan was born on Aug. 12, 1977, in Colfax and grew up on the family farm in Steptoe. From a young age, he took to building model boats, cars and planes rather quickly. His passion for mechanical work would soon turn into his career, but as a child it was simply a hobby.
After graduating from Colfax High School, Jonathan began working on electronics and car stereo installation at the now-closed Palouse Audio in Pullman. Without any professional training, Jonathan had a natural ability to take apart something broken and put it together as good as new.
"He was such a fast learner," Ginna said. "Customers were constantly impressed with him."
His talents allowed him to move to Seattle to start his own home theater installation business, Ultimate Theaters. His personable and friendly attitude, paired with a job well done, earned the respect of his clients, who would recommend him to their friends. As Ultimate Theaters grew in clientele, so did Jonathan's circle of friends. Some clients even extended an invitation to Jonathan to help out with race cars at the Daytona 500 in Florida.
"He started as someone who was hired to do a job, but left as a friend," Ginna said.
When the economy took a turn in 2008, Jonathan left Seattle to move back to Steptoe. He moved into the house his grandmother once lived in, owned by his parents, and began offering a helping hand on the family farm. Occasionally, he'd head back to Seattle to do work for previous clients.
On July 15, Jonathan was driving his Mercedes sedan in Steptoe when he lost control of his vehicle about 3 miles from his house on Hume Road, causing the car to leave the road and crash into a tree. A news release from the Whitman County Sheriff's Office reported the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of the collision. Jonathan was 37 years old.
His younger brother, Spencer, remembers that night vividly - as a volunteer firefighter for Whitman County Fire District 11, Spencer was called out to the scene of the accident.
"I remember showing up and the car was engulfed, and thinking 'That's my brother, I know it is,' " Spencer said. "I told the other responders I was going to drive to Johnny's to check if he was home, and when I saw his car wasn't in the driveway, I knew."
Both Ginna and Spencer said Hume Road is a tricky drive. The road has no street lights and the shoulder had an uneven edge alongside a ditch that had been previously washed out from rain. About a month after the accident Spencer said he saw road workers fixing the shoulder and ditch to improve safety conditions.
"It's a good thing the road got fixed, but it came a little too late for us," Spencer said.
As the oldest of four siblings, Jonathan proudly took on his role of being the protective one of the group. Both Spencer and younger sister Amanda Ronstadt remember moments when Jonathan would go out of his way looking after their safety and well-being.
Last winter, Amanda and Jonathan rode four wheelers to help plow snow from neighborhood streets and Jonathan made sure to keep a protective watch over his sister.
"He would ride ahead of me, to help clear the path and always turned around to make sure I was doing OK," Amanda said.
Apart from his love of cars and audio installations, Jonathan loved his family. There was never a special moment missed. When Jonathan's nephew was born, he was the first person to get to the hospital. When his sister won Junior Miss, he made the trip from Seattle to surprise her.
"There was never a summer he missed working on the farm," Ginna said. "He was always here to help."
Jonathan never got married or had children, but Ginna described him as a family man.
"He loved his family so much if we needed anything, he'd be the first one there," she said.
In many ways, Jonathan acted as a mentor to his siblings, especially with Spencer. The 10-year age gap separating the two brothers became less noticeable as the years passed, but even as a teenager Spencer remembers going to lengths to spend time with Jonathan in the garage as they both worked on cars.
"Jonathan wouldn't let me in the garage unless I had something to work on, too," Spencer said. "So I'd deliberately take something apart and use it as an excuse to join him."
When Jonathan was back home, the two spent time together hunting and fishing. Shortly before his death, Jonathan and Spencer had one last memorable hunting trip. Jonathan was able to successfully hunt a deer, something he'd been hoping to accomplish for a long time. The deer is now mounted on the wall in Spencer's house and serves as a token of that experience.
"I was really happy to be able to experience that with him," Spencer said. "We were both so excited, and he was so happy it's like I have a piece of him here to always remember him by."
With such an adventurous life, Ginna said she tried her best not to worry and that Jonathan would always ease her mind.
"He was always more concerned about the people around him," Ginna said. "Every time he was about to leave, he'd hug and kiss me and say 'I'll be OK, mom. Love you.' "
Dominique Wald can be reached at (208) 883-4628, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.