They were married for just one day when tragedy struck.
Austin Wesson of Fish Hoek, and his bride Rebekah Bouma-Wesson, of Wichita, USA, were both killed last week when the truck they were in rolled and crashed.
The cause of the accident that took both their lives on Saturday August 5, is as yet undetermined. All that is known is that the vehicle they were in crashed into a tree about 3.2km outside of a place called Clearwater, in Sedgwick County, in the USA.
The newlyweds were just 19 years old. They had been married in the Sedgwick County Courthouse on Friday August 4, with both sets of parents’ blessings; and Ms Bouma-Wesson’s mother as the witness.
The families had planned a larger wedding celebration for September in the States, with all family members present.
Austin’s mother Wendy Wesson spoke briefly to the False Bay Echo on Thursday afternoon as she and her husband Roger packed their car and headed to the airport to attend their son and his wife’s double funeral.
“Our hearts are shattered at losing them here on earth, but we know without a shadow of a doubt that they are with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour,” she said.
Ms Wesson said that Austin was in the Waterpolo A-team, hockey A-team and that he enjoyed long distance running. “He was a very talented drummer and used his gift to play in church, a school band and in other countries.
“Austin had a passion for surfing and loved the waves and would surf whenever he could. Before he left for America, he was teaching surfing, including adaptive surfing to people with disabilities at the Surf Emporium in Muizenberg,” she said.
Austin attended Fullies Church. “All his life he served with a big smile. He was sent from Fullies to his Global Challenge Expeditions (GCEX) family in Jeffreys Bay; which was also his favourite surf spot,” she said.
The GCEX team of 11 travelled to 11 countries and met many people and Austin was changed forever, she said. “His GCEX family helped form Austin into the mighty man of God he became. Never before had we seen a boy turn into a man that loved Jesus so much,” she said.
Ms Wesson said that he had once said “Mom, Jesus and I are so close!”
“Austin was without a doubt a people’s person,” she said. “He enjoyed meeting new people and was always doing things for others. He had a huge heart and gave the best hugs,” his mom said.
It was with the GCEX team, that Austin met the love of his life, Rebekah Bouma. “We fell in love with her within minutes and agreed that we could not have chosen anyone better – and knew that this relationship was of God. Never before have we seen two young people who put Jesus first and themselves second. Their lives were a living sacrifice for the Kingdom of God,” Ms Wesson said.
Austin’s wife of one day, Rebekah Christina Bouma-Wesson, was born in Wichita, Kansas. While Austin died at the scene of the accident, Rebekah died from injuries two days later, on Monday August 7, in Via Christi Hospital St Francis.
Rebekah grew up in the Wichita area as the fourth of five children. Rebekah’s mother Rachel said of her daughter: “Her life was defined by her love of others and her desire to serve them. She was a charismatic, selfless person who deeply invested in others and was loved by so many.”
She said that Rebekah participated in a number of short-term mission trips over several years. It was in Jeffreys Bay that she met Austin. “Their love for Jesus was first in their lives and they wanted to continue to do missions together after attending school in Michigan, Ms Bouma said.
“Our hearts are broken at this loss, but we take comfort in the promise that we will see them again in heaven; where we will be in the presence of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
The families had planned a larger wedding celebration for September. “They were excited about the future,” Rebekah’s father John Bouma said. “From all appearances, they were meant for each other.”
On Sunday August 13, a crowd of friends and family gathered on Fish Hoek beach and shared their memories of Austin, whose life began and flourished in the sea-side village.
He was described as always smiling – as someone who made the time for people who were not necessarily close friends – as somebody who brought joy and a love of life to all. Austin attended New Beginnings pre-school, and was taught by Celeste Alexander who was at the gathering with Lee Lind.
She described him as a mischievous and sweet child. He attended Fish Hoek Primary and High schools.
Kerry Williams, the owner of Rhythm Productions Dance Studio, where Austin danced for many years, organised the event on Sunday.
The crowd arrived just before sundown to see a massive heart drawn in the sand, a vase of flowers at the centre and the young newly weds’ names written in the sand. “Austin was such a charismatic boy, and so talented. He did modern, hip hop and excelled at tap dancing. He performed in a number of productions, always in a featured capacity,” she told the False Bay Echo.
“He hated that black and white tie around the vase of flowers, he wore it in the production of Pata Pata at Artscape; but I know he would have found it immensely funny that I had the audacity to use it at his celebration,” she said. “He would have got it, and said ‘love you anyway, Ke’,” she said.
Among the crowd was Yolande van Holstein who said it was Austin who welcomed her family into Fish Hoek when they first arrived. “We will miss him,” she said.
Teegan Pitt and Engela van der Merwe each said that Austin would brighten anyone’s day.
Teegan said: “I’m just so sorry this happened to him.”
Engela said he had attended the same church and primary school as she had. She said he was always full of life, that he was accepting of everyone; and that he would always make time to really talk to people.
Mikayla Sutter described Austin as “such a nice guy” who was always smiling and who brought joy into the world.
Pastor Kevin O’ Donoghue said a few words and a prayer for the couple and their families.
Some of Austin’s fellow dancers brought white balloons, with handwritten notes to him attached to them, to release into the sky in his honour, and fellow dancer and singer Kathryn Swain of Kommetjie sang the song Angel, and led the gathered crowd in their final goodbye song: Amazing Grace.