Nate LaFave donned red and white last month and headed to Lincoln to watch the Huskers play the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
His dad, Dave LaFave Jr., had more than football tickets up his sleeve. He had arranged for Nate, who dreamed of becoming a Navy SEAL, to meet with members of the special forces who were in town.
“He was beaming,” said Dave LaFave Jr. “It was like meeting your heroes.”
Now that joyful moment is a comforting memory for Nate LaFave's family as they mourn his death.
The 15-year-old sophomore at Mount Michael Benedictine High School died Friday as the result of a traffic collision near Gretna. He was a few weeks shy of his 16th birthday on Nov. 5.
Born in Lincoln and raised in Omaha, he was a straight-A student who ran cross country and played soccer at Mount Michael. He boarded at the school during the week and spent weekends at home.
Nate, the youngest of three brothers, enjoyed playing guitar, fishing and spending time with Madeline Shely, his girlfriend of about a year.
“They were the most respectful and beautiful kids to each other I'd ever seen,” Dave LaFave Jr. said.
Nate underwent surgery last week to remove kidney stones. He had spent much of the week recovering at home when on Friday he, Madeline and friend Carly Anne Kelly decided to visit Vala's Pumpkin Patch.
Before leaving, he was home with his books, working on homework.
“What kid on a Friday afternoon is doing that? He was just unbelievable,” Dave LaFave Jr. said.
Madeline, 16, was at the wheel at the time of the accident. Nate was in the front passenger seat and Carly, 15, was in the back seat.
According to a preliminary investigation by the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office, the teenagers were traveling south on 180th Street when their Jeep Cherokee collided with an eastbound pickup truck driven by Alan Hynce, 50, of Omaha, at the Nebraska Highway 370 intersection.
The accident is still being investigated.
Carly remained in critical condition Tuesday and Madeline was in fair condition at the Nebraska Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said.
Hynce was uninjured.
The families of Madeine and Carly — both sophomores at Marian High School — issued statements thanking the community for support.
“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the LaFave family,” said Madeline's family. “Nate was an extraordinary young man whom Maddie loved dearly.”
At Mount Michael, the usual Monday morning chapel time was extended through the first period, said head of school David Peters. And while many students and staff struggled through, the school tried to keep the day as normal as possible.
“I think they were actually ready for that,” Peters said.
Marian students also began their school week Monday with a prayer service, and the entire school sang the sophomore class song, said head of school Susan M. Toohey.
Efforts to raise money for all the families affected by the tragedy were under way, with cheerleaders making and selling 400 hair bows. Both Madeline and Carly are part of the cheerleading squad.
During the weekend, more than 100 people gathered for a vigil Sunday night for Nate, his father said.
“Every kid who walks up to me tells me Nate was their best friend. He really was. Every parent tells me he was like another son to them, and he was,” he said. “It's going to take a lot of people to fill the hole that Nate's left.”
Other survivors include his mother, Beth LaFave; brothers, Nick and Chris LaFave; grandparents Dave Sr. and Liz LaFave; and grandmother Barb Sylvester of York, Neb.
A funeral Mass is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church, 16701 S St. A wake will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Stephen.