Funeral services were held in the Hartsville High School arena Wednesday at 4 p.m. The procession into the arena was led by the football team.
Audrey Childers, spokeswoman for Darlington County Schools, says they expected the 2,200 capacity area to be packed with people wishing to bid farewell to the beloved teen.
WMBF News Reporter Stephanie Robusto reports that before the service began the arena was packed, but silent, and most of those in attendance wore red and black, the Red Foxes team colors.
During the service, Hartsville High football coach Jeff Calabrese spoke of Rouse as, "a big guy, with a bigger personality."
The football team then lined up to sign a poster of Ronald "RJ" Rouse in his jersey.
Personal, heartfelt comments were delivered by friends of Ronald, including his teammates, coach, and pastor. While everyone is emotional over the loss of RJ and tissues were being passed out all over the auditorium, the crowd couldn't help but laugh out loud when they shared memories of him.
Rouse was described as a very well-mannered, kind young man, but one that was always up to something.
Honoring Ronald 'RJ' Rouse
To honor Rouse, his teammates have decided to wear helmet stickers bearing Rouse's jersey number, as well as wearing white undershirts under their jerseys with a design.
Hartsville High students will be selling "Rouse bands", red wristbands that honor Rouse, and T-shirts, the profits of which will be given to the family to abate the cost of the funeral.
The school is retiring Rouse's #74 football jersey, by framing his jersey and hanging it in a place of honor.
Letter from Coach Calabrese
October 10, 2012
Thank you for your patience. I decided to write a letter because, quite frankly, I am having a hard time with my words...even finding the correct things to say, but I will try. I need you all to understand that I really love our players; our coaches love our players; and I believe our players love us. Ronald and I had an extremely close relationship. I have been absolutely devastated, and have only been able to stand because of my trust in God.
Telling our players of Ronald's death was the most excruciating thing I have ever had to do. After the words somehow came out of my mouth, our coaches immediately tried to console our boys. As coaches, we had to find a way to be strong for our kids. Grown men have had experiences in their lives that young men have not. We HAD to find the courage to be there for them. Again, I believe God gave us [as a staff] that ability.
I have never been more proud of a group of young men in my life. These kids have drawn strength from each other, family, and their faith.
Ronald was a very special young man whom I loved dearly. The depth of his personality can't really be put into words. Everyone has had a "Rouse Moment". We have been sharing those moments for three days, and we will keep going...the stories are endless. Ronald also knew the Bible very well, and was proud of his faith. If you were in Ronald's life, you basically experienced every emotion there is, and sometimes that was on a daily basis. Ronald was a true blessing and we all are grateful for the time we shared.
While football is not the most important thing right now, we had to come up with a plan to move forward. Our players thought that playing on Friday was the best option. I do not know how we will play, or to be honest, what kind of job I have actually done this week...The victory is in finding the courage and strength to take the field.
Jeff Calabrese Head Coach Hartsville High School Red Foxes
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