The Drake family’s pastor Nate Hettinga said they had their moments, just like himself, and just like each member of his audience at the Cascade Community Church on Sunday.

They were almost always late for mass, he said, generating laughter from the hundreds of friends, family and neighbors who had come for the memorial. They had periods of self-doubt and wandering. They were human.

“Jerry and Jenny, if they were attending, would have already said something sarcastic in response to something I am saying up here,” he said. “Braeden and Zachary would have broken several things by now, and nobody would know where the baby is.”

That the worship hall had been packed twice since the family of five died last month is a testament to the type of people they were, Hettinga said. A vigil had been held at the Fryelands Boulevard on June 14, four days after their Brinnon cabin caught fire in the middle of the night.

“These guys have a big story,” he said.

Humor was important, as was mourning that day, Hettinga said.

Jerry and Jenny Drake’s immediate family took turns sharing about the couple’s lives, and those of their three boys, Braeden, 11, Zachary, 8, and Dylan, 2, following the pastor’s welcome.

Jenny Schmitz was born in Sitka, Alaska, said her mother, Linda Schmitz. She was artistic, and later in life dedicated herself to health. She loved yoga, gardening and eating well, she said.

Her daughter met her future husband on the bus in middle school, Linda Schmitz said. The two lived on the same street, but lost touch for years before reconnecting in 1999. They married four years later.

“Jenny always had a strong sense of self, and her place in the universe and the way things should be,” her mother said.

Even so, her daughter spent a few years “lost and searching for herself.” Jerry’s sister, Kim Baurassa, said he too experienced “turbulent, yet formative” teen years. He rebounded, which Baurassa said was rare to see “from such depths.”

“It speaks volumes of the fortitude that existed inside this man,” she said.

Schmitz and Baurassa separately noted Jenny and Jerry’s relationship sparked a change in each. For Jerry, it served as a turning point. He took his life and career more seriously, so he could provide for her and their future. 

Braeden was born four years after the couple married. His aunt and Jerry’s sister, Debbie Drake, said he was a scientific thinker from the start. He had a thirst for knowledge that he loved to share with others, she said.

“Looking at his room, you see an artist, builder, inventor and mad scientist rolled into one,” she said.

Debbie Drake said her nephew was a good older brother, who loved and harassed his younger siblings in equal measure.

Zachary came along three years later. His uncle and Jenny’s brother, Karl Schmitz, said he came into the world “barely five pounds,” and looking like “a wizened old man.”

“A little ironic given that he was larger than life thereafter,” he said.

Zachary had an enormous heart, was charismatic and a friend to all, Karl Schmitz said. The middle child was fearless and adventurous, he said.

“He flew through life, and sometimes missed the details, but every day was an adventure,” his uncle said.

Dylan Drake was just beginning to show signs of the boy he was going to become, said his aunt and Jenny Drake’s sister, Carin Murata. He loved his grandma and liked to keep things tidy, like his mother, and was often volunteering to help out, she said.

“Dylan was such a happy baby, who cooed and giggled and talked from the time he was born,” Murata said. “He communicated and looked at the world from behind smiling eyes.”

The Drakes were a tight-knit unit, according to family. They would adventure together, were bright and smart, worked hard, and had just as much fun.

They frequented the Monroe and Sky Valley Family YMCA, and Linda Schmitz said they would be there to carry on the family’s traditional activities, like potluck dinners and playing volleyball together. They had loved spending time at the family cabin, which was a shared venture with their extensive network of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

A next-door neighbor of theirs on the 600 block of Salmon Street in Jefferson County remembered feeling relieved when the Drakes moved in. Her children had finally found friends who could keep up.  Then she realized she had lucked out even more. They were friends who could tire her kids out.

Hettinga said they were definitely a rambunctious bunch — and also intelligent and kind.

“The questions they asked their Sunday school teachers made their Sunday school teachers better Bible students, better theologians,” he said.

Hettinga said the ministry of being present for one another can help heal in such a time of loss. He said it is important to continue to share the family’s stories, especially with those to whom they were closest.

Some who spoke at the memorial said they were resigned to live more like Jerry and Jenny; to keep the family in their hearts. Others said they were still processing the loss, and trying to make sense of why such good people would be taken so prematurely.

“To lose a family is devastating on an entirely different level than anything any of us have become accustomed to,” Hettinga said.