News Article Details

Family, friends celebrate life of autistic boy

Mohave Valley Daily News - 6/18/2018

BULLHEAD CITY - Family and friends remembered Jeremy Duncan on Saturday during a Celebration of Life at Rotary Park.

Jeremy, who would have turned 8 years old on July 7, was found dead June 3 in the Colorado River after being reported missing the previous day. An estimated 1,000 volunteers assisted first responders in the search for Jeremy, who was autistic and almost totally nonverbal.

Most of the people at the celebration of life wore red or blue clothing. Red was Jeremy's favorite color; blue recognizes people living with autism. His immediate family sat next to his little red wagon. Small stuffed toys and painted rocks were scattered around the area of the park where the ceremony was held.

The boy's father, Jeremy Duncan Sr., said his son was a smart, strong boy who would have made a great athlete - so smart that he was able to distract people so he could do what he wanted.

The still photo from surveillance video that circulated while people were searching for Jeremy showed him moving at top speed and looking happy.

"He's running, jumping, skipping, laughing his little butt off," Duncan said.

Victoria Santos, Jeremy's grandmother, talked about how Jeremy was loved by his parents and his sister. Bernadette Duncan-Santos was given her mother's first name but is called "Junior."

"J.J. wasn't always kind to Junior, but she always spoke kindly of her brother," Victoria said.

His mother, Bernadette Santos, also spoke. Loved ones knew Jeremy as "J.J."

Not only was he "very beautiful" and "energetic" but also "sarcastic, witty and very, very adventurous."

And, she said, "he loved the river."

While so many people tried to find her son, at least one person saw him but didn't realize he was in danger. The person said he saw him floating in the river "without a life jacket," she noted.

That's a primary reason why Santos and other family members asked people to educate themselves about autism. Included in the Celebration of Life pamphlet for Jeremy is this website address: www.nationalautismresources.com. A poem about stimming - the hand-flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases, that autistic people do to calm themselves when they become overemotional - also is included:

Stim as You Please

"Tip toe tightrope. Jump for joy.

Flap your happy hands.

Turn upside down your toys.

Spin in circles. Stare at the light.

Echo Echo Echo

All through the night.

Flick your fingers. Bounce your knees.

Swing your body. Sing your body.

Stim as you please!

Thank you and you're welcome."

And the pamphlet contains an article from a website called "The Soccer Mom Blog." A mother of an autistic boy explains her fear for his safety because "he's a runner" - like Jeremy was. When the writer's boy would break away and run while they were at school, the grocer or a mall, "no one has ever helped. They just stare and it blows my mind."

The National Autism Association reported in 2017 that nearly half of all autistic children wander or run away from home, school, even residential facilities. The NAA also stated that accidental drowning continued to be the leading cause of

wandering-related deaths among all autistic people.

The Mohave County Medical Examiner has said the boy accidentally drowned. The full report on Jeremy's death hadn't been completed as of mid-week.

Pastor Allen Cates from Praise Chapel also led people in prayer and spoke:

"If something don't look right, investigate," he said. "Find out what's going on."

The family is still short of the total amount needed to pay for Jeremy's funeral costs. To donate, contact Desert Lawn at 928-768-5959.

 
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