FARGO — With the help of his ex-wife Laura Sokolofsky and nearly 200 friends, family and community members, Jay Seabold is finally going to join his parents, June and Herb, at Riverside Cemetery in Fargo more than 10 years after his death.
Seabold’s ashes have been in a crematory box in Sokolofsky’s basement since his death, but Sokolofsky and their son Jack Seabold, now 18, felt it was the right time for him to be laid to rest with his parents.
They went to the cemetery this spring to visit the graves of Jay’s parents June and Herb and found that June was the only member of the family with a grave marker — Herb’s grave was unmarked.
“We tried to figure out how much it would cost to have a marker placed for Herb, Jay’s dad, and a headstone for Jay so we could put them to rest together,” Sokolofsky said. “It was going to be $3,000. I was personally willing to put some money toward it, but it was going to take maybe another year for our family to save up the rest.”
The same night she learned how much a headstone and marker would cost, Sokolofsky set up a fundraiser on Facebook, aiming to raise $2,000. When she woke up and checked the fundraiser the next morning, it had already exceeded its goal.
Since launching on June 5, the Facebook fundraiser has raised more than $8,000, with 172 people making donations. Others have written checks or sent money on Venmo. Sokolofsky said she is using the extra money for a college fund for Jack, who will graduate from high school next spring.
“Jay’s been gone more than 10 years, his dad’s been gone 19 years, and his mom’s been gone 25 years,” Sokolofsky said. “These are people who have been gone a long time, and we have people who still care about that family and what my son has been through. I never expected that kind of reaction and support.”
Jay Seabold died on Dec. 10, 2009, of accidental alcohol poisoning when Jack was 7 years old. Jay was an only child and both of his parents had already passed, so it fell on Sokolofsky, who was already re-married, to take care of her ex-husband’s affairs.
She organized a memorial service, cleaned out his house, arranged an estate sale and paid for a lawyer. But when she went to take care of his bank account, which was supposed to contain more than $60,000, and create a trust fund for Jack, she found it empty. Seabold’s ex-girlfriend, whose name was on the account but whom he had not been with for more than a year and who had moved away, cleaned it out and closed it, Sokolofsky said.
“She said when (Jack) was 18 that she would give him the money,” Sokolofsky said. “That never happened and I never believed that it would. But there was a part of me that thought we’ll wait and see — hold out hope.”
Jay’s old friends Matthew Fowler and Eric Fluge have maintained a relationship with Jack as he has grown up. They take him hunting and fishing and talk to him about hockey. And they organize a motorcycle run called the Jay Seabold Memorial Ride to raise money to help replace the money that Jack lost. The ride, which starts in Downer, Minn., curves around Big Cormorant Lake and finishes in Lake Park, has seen from 10 to 50 riders over the years.
“Jay’s family had a cabin on Big Cormorant, so it’s nice to ride by there,” Sokolofsky said.
Sokolofsky said she is writing down the names of each person who donated to the fundraiser and is going to make a card for Jack with each name in it. She says she should receive the money from Facebook next week and the grave markers will be ready in six to 12 weeks.
“When that’s done, I’m hoping that we can get together for both Jay and Herb so that we would be able to do a ceremony at Riverside for them both together,” she said. “Especially since so many were truly a part of making it happen. I don’t know how to thank people for this. I didn’t expect any of the gifts I have seen. It just blew me away. It felt so truly grateful to have so many people care.”