Joel Talbot touched the lives of many with his passion for agriculture, his pursuit of adventure and his love for people.
Over a hundred of those who held him close to their hearts came together in the Free Speech Area for a candlelight vigil Thursday to remember Talbot, the life he lived, the people he touched and the loved ones he left behind.
The vigil began with a prayer: “His life and his passions live on in the family he leaves behind and the love he has extended to all of us in one way or another.”
Talbot, a senior in crop science production management and member of Alpha Gamma Rho, was riding his dirt bike on the campus farm Tuesday night or early Wednesday when he hit a post in the dark and was likely killed instantly, Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez said.
Slowly his friends and family were notified of the situation. Katie Milam, his best friend who knew him since freshman year in high school, was in disbelief when the first phone call came in, but others soon followed.
“Sure enough I was getting a phone call from his roommate letting me know the news,” Milam said. “It still hasn’t fully set in. It has been quite a shock to all of us and it will take take time to heal and move forward from him.”
Milam wasn’t the only one taken back by the news, Robert Willmott, the Fresno State orchard manager, was too.
“[Wednesday] we worked all day together from 7:30 [a.m.] to 4:30 [p.m.],” Willmott said. “Last thing I told him was ‘Joel, go out fill up the stations, come back, lock up the shop and let’s get out of here.”
After they both finished their tasks the last words Willmott said to Talbot were: “Alright Joel, I’ll see you on Thursday.”
“That’s why when it happened this morning, when they notified me it was Joel who was in the accident I was just taken back,” Willmott said. “I thought it couldn’t have been him. I just saw him yesterday.”
Talbot was a student assistant in the Fresno State farm who worked with the tractors and was a great welder said, Mark Salwasser, the farm coordinator.
Salwasser said he remembers Talbot as a happy guy who always had a smile on his face, was great company and had passion for agriculture.
“He was really excited about his future in ag,” Salwasser said. “He was talking to us recently about his interest in wanting to farm his own land one day. He just really blossomed here these last few months in his work and his interest in agriculture. You could just really see that excitement in him that he really found his niche and had a direction where his life was going.”
When the news was announced during an administrative meeting, Dr. Carolyn Coon, dean of students, said an audible gasp was heard.
“It’s a very tragic situation when you lose someone who is at that point in their life that they are a senior, getting ready to graduate and have chosen a career and then just – gone,” said Coon. “It’s hard to have a death that.”
During the vigil the remembrance and celebration of his life continued.
“For anybody that knew Joel, you know that he didn’t just have friends – he had best friends or really good friends,” said Clay Kruse, a former AGR president. “And it’s obvious by how many people are here today that he really impacted a lot of folks here at Fresno State.”
After the lighting of candles a moment of silence was observed by the audience.
Once a piano began playing “Hallelujah” the moment of silence was broken and those who wanted to share experiences they had with Talbot began telling stories.
Sean Anderson, Talbot’s roommate, spoke about the kind of person he was.
“For those of you who knew him, you know he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” Anderson said. “He was the most fun, caring, loving guy you would ever meet. If you need a place to live he would give you his house. If you knew him he left a piece of him with you.”
Milam continued and expressed her feeling of loss through a poem.
“Today we say goodbye to a loved one, a best friend, a loving brother, a caring son,” she began.
“We shall see him again some day in the big sky above. Until then his memory will live on as if he had never gone,” she said ending the poem.
Miliam described Talbot as the type of person who always wanted to make people smile.
“He loved everyone he met and could cheer anyone up even if he didn’t know them,” she said. “He was just that type of person. He was full of life and full of joy.”
Although Talbot’s family was not present they were kept informed by a close family friend, Ludie Olenchalk, who was his sister’s roommate. The family asked her to relay a message to those at the vigil mourning along with them.
“They are amazed by the amount of people here,” Olenchalk said. “They are amazed of how many people Joel touched, how his smile could got to people and how his personality was just one people would gravitate towards. They would like to thank you for loving him when he was here. Their prayer is that you always remember Joel.”
A memorial site is beginning to grow at the location of the crash, where a cross and flowers have been placed to honor his memory.