On the last July weekend in 2011, Adam Sellheim was out on a pontoon with friends on Lower Whitefish Lake doing something he loved.
Visiting friends at their cabin, he was in his element in being outside and on the water. The group stopped the pontoon to go swimming. Sellheim entered the water. He never resurfaced. His body was recovered the next morning, on July 31, 2011, in 92 feet of water. He was 26.
His loss didn’t make sense. His mother said searching for the why in her son’s death is no longer the question that matters. Instead, and early on, his family and friends put their energy into remembering the intelligent and inquisitive young man they loved. Tuesday, Sellheim’s mother, stepfather and girlfriend were in Brainerd to donate $4,000 to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s department. Barbara and Greg Rounds, of Greenfield, and Stephanie Williams, 27, attended the county board meeting along with numerous members of the dive team.
Sellheim’s loved ones remembered him as funny, witty, dedicated, caring and honest.
“He had a great smile,” Williams said.
His loss was immense.
Barbara Rounds said the professionalism of the volunteer dive team members made a difference that terrible day.
“As a mother I didn’t want them to come off the lake,” Rounds said of the recovery effort. She thought her son might be injured but on shore somewhere waiting for help. She said a dive team member took her out on the water, looked her in the eye and was straightforward with her about the likelihood of that sliver of hope.
“My one request was to bring him back,” Rounds said of her son. And they did.
Rounds said she doesn’t know how the volunteer dive team members repeatedly go out as other families suffer through one of the worst days of their lives.
“The actions of the team that day and today ... it just says a lot. It gives me a lift in my heart to see the positive in humans,” Rounds said. “Their way of showing love to people they don’t even know, which is just amazing.”
Focusing on a goal of remembering Sellheim and giving back, family and friends set up a nonprofit memorial — www.adamsellheim.org — and a fundraising committee of seven. It helped them get through the tough days.
“Adam was a loving son, brother, boyfriend, grandson, cousin, and friend,” his memorial Facebook page at www.facebook.com/adamsellheim recounts. “He was a biologist, an outdoorsman, a fisherman, and a hunter. He was also an avid golfer.” This past summer, on July 27, the Adam R. Sellheim Memorial hosted its first golf tournament at Daytona Golf Club in Dayton, Minn. A strong turnout, 60 golfers and 135 people for dinner, brought friends and strangers to the event. Greg Rounds said it made a difference and brought out the best in people.
“It was just nice to see how he impacted a lot of people,” Williams said.
Barbara Rounds said: “It gives you a little more hope in life — that’s nice.”
The tournament is planned as an annual event with the second annual event on July 19 at Daytona Golf Club. Proceeds raised were split between Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota Duluth and the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s office for its work to keep lakes safe.
Sheriff Todd Dahl said Sellheim’s family and friends both remembered him and donated countless fundraising hours to shed a positive light on a bad situation.
“We can all recount where we were and what we were doing when we got that call,” Dahl said, adding the dive team members often operate under the radar without recognition to truly do the job by providing closure to a family.
“I couldn’t be any more proud to represent them,” Dahl said.
Sgt. Scott Goddard, boat and water supervisor and dive team members Tom Mattsen, Mark Cross, Josh Duda, Mike Hawkins, Bill Mattson, Ken Oftedahl, VInce Pikula and Adam Johnson attended Tuesday’s board meeting.
Barbara Rounds said their ongoing donation is aimed at helping the dive team to assist families in the future at at troubling time when they take the step in life her family did.
Tom Mattsen said donations like the one from Sellheim’s family make a difference. He noted donations helped purchase side-scan sonar, which helped the team recover a young man’s body from the Mississippi River more quickly and more safely.
That kind of closure is what Sellheim’s family and friends want to help provide for others who sadly follow in their path.
“He masterfully fit an incredibly full life into his short years here on earth,” Sellheim’s memorial Facebook page notes. “Adam was many things to many people, but above all, his life was important and meaningful.
“Though he is no longer with us physically, his spirit is alive and strong in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.”