BARNESVILLE, MINN.-Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton High School counselor Sarah Kjos walked up to D-G-F athletic director Joe O'Keefe on Tuesday to tell him she was going to Barnesville to help out because of a tragedy. O'Keefe asked what happened. Kjos told him a former student and volunteer coach had died in a car accident.
"Please don't let it be Jaynie," O'Keefe thought to himself.
It was Jaynie.
In education and coaching it's taught to never have favorites. Jaynie Halvorson was O'Keefe's favorite, and he was proud of it. She was part of his first seventh-grade class. O'Keefe taught the 2007 Barnesville graduate throughout high school and coached her for basketball in seventh grade, eighth grade and in AAU.
"She was and will always be my all-time favorite," O'Keefe said. "Even when kids ask now it is without hesitation Jaynie Halvorson. She was typically one of the smallest and played the biggest. She would run through a wall for you and not ask why. She put herself last always. She was very special to me, to everyone."
Halvorson (Herbranson at the time) was on the volleyball, basketball and track and field teams for Barnesville in high school, returning to help coach volleyball and basketball for the Trojans. She played college basketball at Concordia.
Barnesville principal and football coach Bryan Strand gathered Barnesville students together on Tuesday. Through tears he told the students Halvorson was the best person to walk the halls of Barnesville High School.
"She ran the speed part of our speed and strength program and the stuff she would make the kids do was crazy, but she would do it right with them," Strand said. "She never asked them to do things that she wouldn't do herself, and kids would come back being just drained. Many of the kids described her as the nicest, sweetest, mean person on the planet for the things she would have them do. Kids would do it because they never wanted to let her down. No one did. This person touched the lives of literally thousands of people and was an inspiration to them all."
D-G-F senior point guard Natalie Steichen was introduced to Barnesville senior point guard Nicole Herbranson, Halvorson's younger sister, after a basketball tournament when the two were very young. Halvorson, who seemed to be at every one of her younger sister's games, whether it was coaching or in the stands, told Steichen it would be so much fun to see them play together. Steichen ended up playing with Nicole Herbranson on an AAU team soon after and will play with Nicole in college at Minnesota State Moorhead.
"Personally, I believe the Herbranson's are the most selfless, humble and loving family," Steichen said. "I don't know if there is anyone who can dislike a member of their family."
Steichen, along with basketball teammates Rae Critchley, Allie Critchley and Grace Steichen, met with D-G-F girls basketball coach Tom Critchley after school on Tuesday. They wanted to do something for Halvorson, Herbranson and their family. Critchley wore a purple shirt and tie for D-G-F's game on Tuesday in honor of the Trojans. He tweeted out a picture of the outfit, the response was good, so Critchley contacted fellow Heart O' Lakes Conference coaches to see if they'd like to agree to a "Purple Out" on Friday.
"When something like this happens, we all feel for those impacted because the HOL really does feel like a family," Perham girls basketball coach T.J. Super said.
In honor of Halvorson, HOL girls basketball teams are asking fans to wear purple for Friday's games. The players plan to wear things like purple ribbons in their hair and purple socks. Super had the idea of collecting money at each game for the Jaynie Halvorson Memorial Fund GoFundMe campaign, which is raising money for a scholarship fund for Halvorson's 6-month-old son, Hoyt.
"In a nutshell, Jaynie was an angel on earth," Barnesville girls basketball coach Ryan Bomstad said. "She had a soul like none other. She never rested. She was constantly working on something for other groups and people. She is what I feel Barnesville is all about.
"She was selfless. She never wanted credit for anything. She worked with all groups in the school and community. She was very proud of this community and kept trying to make it the best it could be."
Halvorson loved quotes. She had "seize the day" on her license plate. Barnesville assistant basketball coach Aaron Schindler said Halvorson lived her life by a quote from poet Maya Angelou:
"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."