Rafu Staff Report

FOLSOM — Hundreds of people attended a celebration of life service for Ronin Shimizu on Jan. 10 at Lakeside Church in Folsom.

The 12-year-old took his own life on Dec. 3. According to family and friends, he was bullied for being the only male cheerleader on Folsom Middle School’s Vista Junior Eagles squad. He was moved from school to school and ended up being home-schooled because of the bullying.

Ronin Shimizu
Ronin Shimizu

Still trying to cope with the tragedy, which has drawn international attention, family members did not speak at the service. The seventh-grader is survived by his parents, Brandon and Danielle, and a younger brother, Ryden.

“It is true that because of his specialness, Ronin was a target of bullying by individuals that could not understand or accept his uniqueness,” his parents said in a statement last month. “Ronin was not just a target of bullying because of his participation in cheer, but for him just being Ronin.”

Pastor Brad Franklin, lead pastor of Lakeside Church, officiated along with Kevin Kent, middle school pastor.

“It was the family’s desire to bring the community together and share together as a community,” Franklin said. “We come together as the cheer team, crew team, the wrestling team, the Boy Scouts, and fellow middle-schoolers and grieving parents.”

He alluded to the circumstances of Ronin’s death by saying, “Like Ronin, we are all on a search to belong.”

Kent recalled meeting Ronin at a swim party last summer. “I remember him smiling, I remember him happy, I remember him having fun … It’s appropriate to mourn, it’s good to be able to laugh, it’s appropriate to weep as we remember, and to dance as we celebrate his life …

“I think Ronin wants us to live, maybe try something different or unexpected … We can choose to make the most of the time that we have now, live in a way that shows love, that builds people up, that encourages others. I think that will bring honor to Ronin’s life. We hold on to the good times that we had with him, remember the smiles, celebrate the moments, however brief they may have been, that we were able to share with him.”

Robin Drummond, chaplain with the Sierra Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, delivered the eulogy.

“At an early age, Ronin’s affinity for creativity and a love of the arts became very apparent. Whether it be drawing, painting, fashion design, dance or architectural design, he loved to use his innovative and creative spirit to make great things,” she said. “Following in his father’s footsteps, he also loved any gadget, new and old, especially electronics …

“Ronin’s love for the arts and fashion continued to grow with him. At the age of 7, he received his first dress form from his papa, who is also a tailor. Using his newly acquired dress form, along with scraps of fabric and beads, he designed his first dress without even needing a pattern. Many times his parents, family and friends would just be amazed by his creations …

Haley Hill (left), Ronin Shimizu’s best friend, fought back tears as she said, “He always told me one day he’d make my wedding dress.”  (News 10/ABC)
Haley Hill (left), Ronin Shimizu’s best friend, fought back tears as she said, “He always told me one day he’d make my wedding dress.” (News 10/ABC)

“Ronin’s love for the arts led him to the theater, where at the age of 10 he played a supporting role in the El Dorado Music Theater’s production of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Ronin continued to explore his theatrical experience by taking tap dancing lessons through the Sutter Street Theater.”

Drummond noted that Ronin’s favorite holidays were Halloween, Christmas and the Fourth of July, and that he was in charge of decorating the family’s Christmas tree.

“Early on in life, Ronin discovered he was very flexible and love to do the splits and cartwheels,” Drummond continued. “From there he started doing tumbling and gymnastics, which eventually led him to try out for the cheer squad, where he became the first male cheerleader for the Vista Junior Eagles. He really enjoyed showcasing his talents and being a part of that cheer team.

“While doing cheer, he continued his active involvement in Pack 386 of the Cub Scouts, where he started as a Tiger Cub and finished as a Senior Webelo. Following the Cub Scouts, Ronin followed with his Arrow of Light to Troop 134 of the Boy Scouts. Ronin loved being a Boy Scout. He especially loved all of the camping trips, with this last summer’s trip to Yosemite being his favorite …

“Most recently, Ronin was part of the Upper Natoma Rowing Club. He was the youngest and smallest member of the team, and he was training to be a coxswain. He absolutely loved being a part of the UNRC team and was always excited to go to practice.”

Drummond added, “Ronin was what we like to call an old soul. He was wise beyond his years. He could relate remarkably well with many people years older than himself. His parents would often be told by others how eloquently he could speak for a child and they were often amazed at his use of words …

“Ronin was perhaps one of the most social kids out there. His parents often referred to him as a ‘social butterfly.’ He was never afraid to meet new people and make friends.

“Ronin was also one of the most helpful kids around. He was the little helper who would carry bags for people without being asked. He would push his nana’s grocery cart and was always willing to lend a hand …

“Any time his brother couldn’t figure out how to put the Lego pieces together, Ronin was always there to help him finish the job … Ronin also helped Ryden learn how to ride a bike … He was the one to even take the training wheels off of Ryden’s bike so that he could learn how to ride on two wheels.”

Drummond concluded, “Although his time with us was ever so short, he touched our hearts and he made an everlasting impression on so many. He always gave us the best hugs and his smile would light up a whole room. Ronin will always be remembered for being a loving, sensitive, smart, compassionate, and empathetic person who always followed his heart.

“‘Ronin’ translates literally in Japanese to ‘wave man,’ because a masterless samurai travels the land like a wave travels the ocean. Ronin … has been making waves for 12 years and will continue making more waves for many years to come.”

Ronin’s best friend, Haley Hill, 13, remembered him as someone who “always knew how to make someone laugh or bring a huge smile to your face with his crazy personality.”

Holding back tears, she said, “He always told me one day he’d make my wedding dress. And I have no doubt it would have been one of the most incredible dresses anyone has ever seen. But the world won’t get to see it now, and I won’t get to see it. Life without him will not be the same.”

As a tribute to Ronin’s life, members of Boy Scout Troop 134 opened the service with a flag ceremony.

In lieu of flowers, the family asked that memorial gifts be made to the Ronin Shimizu Memorial Fund at www.gofundme.com/ronin-shimizu. More than $22,000 of the $25,000 goal has been raised by 490 people.

The fund will cover a portion of the funeral expenses and will be used for the creation of an organization or the support of current programs to put an end to bullying. The parents have said they want to do everything they can to prevent this sort of tragedy from happening again.

On Jan. 3, a gathering was held at Russell Ranch School to mark the one-month anniversary of Ronin’s passing. The family was joined by children from the community, who released 100 neon green balloons (Ronin’s favorite color) and shared memories of Ronin.

For more information, visit the “Ronin’s Voice” page on Facebook, which is approved by the parents.

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