September 22, 2013 Updated: September 22, 2013 at 10:52 am
BOULDER — Wesley Quinlan liked to make short films and recently was accepted into the Colorado Film School after having ambitions since childhood to become a director.
His girlfriend, Wiyanna Nelson, often wrote poetry, including one about her resolve to remain positive through life's challenges.
The pair were creative, free spirits and fearless, friends and family said. And they were remembered Saturday at a memorial service that drew an estimated 375 people to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
Both 19, the couple lost their lives in the Colorado Floods the evening of Sept. 11 when they were returning from a birthday party. They were swept away after their car became stuck in a mudslide and they left their vehicle, the Boulder Daily Camera reported (http://goo.gl/n6bVCL).
"It's been a very depressing week, but we want to lift our spirits," said Glenda Aretxuloeta, the mother of Quinlan, said Saturday.
Quinlan's aunt Tammy Quinlan Emerich led the ceremony and said those who spent time with the couple could see how much they cared for each other. Quinlan graduated from high school in the spring, and Nelson was starting her senior year.
At the service, Quinlan's poem, "Safe," brought reflection on a new day bringing peace, the Denver Post reported (http://goo.gl/Vby6V4).
Nelson's poem spoke of loss and life after.
"I aspire to be alive. I aspire to believe in life and living through the things I have lost throughout my existence and gaining perspective through them and remaining positive because life really is too short to look at the glass half empty."
Friend Clara Pruess fought back tears as she read the poem to the crowd.
Quinlan's cousin Sandi Atencio eulogized him and shared memories from his large extended family. She said Quinlan enlisted his cousins as actors for his short films and liked to stop by stores to shop for cheap costumes.
His family was thrilled that he would be taking a new step in life and attending film school.
"How wonderful it was to see Wes with yet another plan. A direct one to fulfill his dreams," she said. "He was going to attend film school to start working toward his dream of becoming a great director, a dream he had since grade school."
"Wes will always be with us in spirit," Atencio said. "Wes was the most stubborn, creative, intelligent, social and loving being you will ever meet."
His fearlessness was referenced in mention of his adventures in "subzero temperatures" and hunt for the mythical Chupacabra in New Mexico.
The ceremony also included American Indian prayers and singing, the Denver Post reported. A video memorial featured a rock version of "Ring of Fire."