Lost kayaker was a ‘kind’ and ‘gifted’ young man

“Kind.”

“Gifted.”

“Respectful.”

“Good-looking.”

“Sweet kid.”

Those were some of the words offered up to the skies Saturday evening at Walnut Beach as hundreds of family members and friends gathered for a vigil for a missing kayaker.

The words spoken out loud were words that described Jet Krumwiede, 21, of Milford, who went missing after kayaking with a friend the weekend before, just as Hurricane Sandy was starting to make her presence known here.

The young man’s body was found Monday, two days after the vigil, at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Stratford by Army Corps of Engineer crews who were dredging the river.

The Rev. Cynthia Knapp from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church told the huge gathering of people under the Walnut Beach pavilion Saturday that the ceremony this past weekend was not a funeral service because religion teaches people to believe in miracles. She encouraged friends to pray for Krumwiede’s comfort, whether he was still alive or with God.

Krumwiede and his friend James Root, 21, took off in kayaks Sunday morning, Oct. 28, at about 8:30 a.m. They paddled out to Charles Island and got into trouble in rough waters on the way back, according to state officials.

A Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman said both young men ended up in the water, and Root tried to help his friend. Milford firefighters pulled Root from the water as he clung to a kayak. He was taken to a local hospital and treated for hypothermia, and then released.

A massive search began for Krumwiede around 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The Coast Guard called off the search at 6:30 p.m. as Hurricane Sandy picked up speed here, making search conditions dangerous.

Family members talked during Saturday’s vigil about the “free-spirited” young man who loved to work on motorcycles and had recently completed training at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) in Arizona.

When he returned home he got a job at Libby’s in New Haven.

Krumwiede’s grandfather said his grandson’s life was about challenges: He faced challenges in school, and he created challenges for himself, like when he’d finish fixing up one motorcycle and then set out to get another one and repair it.

He said he watched his grandson conquer a different kind of challenge when he performed in his middle school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie.

After a fairly serious motorcycle accident several years ago, Krumwiede faced yet another challenge — recovering from his injuries — and he did it.

His grandfather said that facing challenges may have been part of his ultimate downfall, leading him out in a kayak last weekend to paddle to Charles Island.

Krumwiede’s father, Mark, spoke too, pointing out that his son meant the world to him.

“He was a great kid and we’re going to miss him,” Mark said, fighting tears.

“I don’t want people who were with him that morning to feel guilty,” Mark added.

One friend, who did not want to be named, said it’s hard to describe Krumwiede in words.

“You can’t describe how amazing Jet was in only a few sentences,” she said. “So many people loved and admired him, and they are asking themselves what they’re going to do now that he’s gone. The only thing that makes any of us feel better is that we’re so happy we got to spend that time with him and that he’ll never really be gone from our hearts and our lives.”

Krumwiede’s mother, Virginia, asked all his friends to keep him alive in their spirit.

The gathering of people at Saturday’s vigil funneled over a narrow stairway to the beach as the sun set and stood silently as the family placed three wreaths in the water and watched them float away.

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