More than two dozen people gathered in a KOTA Territory park Sunday night to honor a friend.
They were supposed to be lighting candles on his birthday cake, but instead they lit candles he'd never get the chance to blow out.
"He's actually the person the person that got me and my husband together," said Angel Britton of Spearfish.
"He was my high school crush," added Jamie Kennedy, also of Spearfish. "He meant everything to me."
Jerry Krejci: A ray of light, blown out too soon.
"I was shocked," said Britton, a friend of Krejci's since their freshman year at Spearfish High School. "I cried immediately when I found out" about his death.
The 23-year-old was found dead last Saturday morning. His car got stuck in a ditch off near Tinton Road in Lawrence County, and he tried to go get help.
"I kept wanting to think he was going to call me up and be like, 'Haha, I got you,'" Kennedy said.
He didn't make it far from his car.
"I'm still waiting for that to happen," said Kennedy, who dated Krejci for four years until they broke about two and a half years ago.
A group of Jerry's friends met in the Spearfish City Park to remember the man who touched all their lives.
"He was always really playful," Britton remembered. "He liked to run around and chase everybody with his wheelchair. ... He was kind of a goofy guy."
"He knew how to make me smile when I was having a crappy day," added Kennedy. "He was my protector. He was always there for me."
It was an emotional gathering, but you couldn't find tears.
"He'd just want it to be a big, giant celebration," Kennedy said. "Not a crying thing. That was just him."
A celebration of his life on the day he was to turn 24.
"We were going to go to Lead and go gamble, possibly," Britton said of the plans they had made for Krejci's birthday. "But, yeah, that kind of changed."
"I was going to call up one of my friends and be like, 'Hey, where's he going to be?'" said Kennedy. "And I was going to surprise him" for his birthday.
"Now I can't. But I can still do this for him"
The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office is still investigating Krejci's death.
Initial autopsy results show signs consistent with hypothermia. The wind chill last weekend dipped past 20 degrees below zero.