Remembering Jack: Step-father: ‘His smile would always lighten your heart’

Jack Ariola Erenberg, the 9-year-old Stillwater boy who died last week after contracting primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) during a late summer swim in Lily Lake, was laid to rest this weekend.

“I was blessed to be his step-dad for a little over five years,” said Rory Roth of Rush City, Minn. “His mom and I were married and we lived on a small hobby farm just east of Rush City at the time.”

Roth said that Ariola Erenberg was a kid who could never pick his favorite thing to do because he was involved in so many things. Ariola Erenberg loved sports.

“He loved hockey and tee-ball, those were his favorites and he played football too,” Roth said. “He was big into anything dealing with nature. He loved fishing, kayaking, bike riding and we’d always go to the (car) races in Cedar Lake, Wis. That was something that he and his grandfather Bob liked to do a lot. We were always doing something fun,”

When asked if Roth would describe Ariola Erenberg as an ‘Energizer bunny’ he said, “Yeah, he really was, and when he played with his older sisters they would wear themselves out pretty well,” Roth said. “He’s just one of those kids that you loved being around. I really did love being around him.”

Roth said Ariola Erenberg was also an extremely creative little boy.

“Every time I would go to the garage, he’d come along with me and get scrap pieces of wood. He always wanted those pieces and he always asked for nails and a hammer and he’d create whatever came to mind,” Roth said. “We’d build things and tinker with wood. When I was at the funeral on Saturday I joked with his uncle that I was still finding nails in the driveway where he would build his projects.”

Roth said that Ariola Erenberg is still greatly missed, and that he was one of the most compassionate children he’d ever met.

“He always cared about how the people around him felt, and I think he gets that from his mom,” Roth said. “His mom and dad are of course affected immensely, and he will be greatly missed by everyone he met. I spent some time with his mom over the weekend and it will be a long recovery because mom and Jack were incredibly close. But she has her entire friend and family structure that is giving her tons of support to go on to the next steps of her life.”

When asked what Roth will miss the most about Jack:

“Oh everything. He was one of those children that no matter how bad the day would go, his smile would always lighten your heart all the time,” Roth said. “It’s an unfortunate tragedy to lose him of all people. But there are many mysteries in the world and hopefully, something good will come out of all this.”