Honor Walk: In body & spirit, Nate Lives On

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By Marianne Ratcliff, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Family and friends of Nathan “Nate” Rhoades gathered on both sides of a very long hallway at Ventura County Medical Center on the evening of Jan. 25 to celebrate Nate with an Honor Walk.

The solemn ceremony is a show of respect for a person whose organs will be donated. The 2019 Nordhoff High School graduate, with his No. 81 blue-and-gold Rangers football jersey on his chest and his helmet placed by his side, was slowly wheeled down the hallway for the recovery surgery as Bon Jovi’s recording of “Hallelujah” softly played, and a hospital-wide announcement was made on the intercom that Nathan Rhoades’ Honor Walk had commenced.

Nate’s uncle, Steve Lieberman of Grover Beach, stopped at two places as Nate was transported down the hallway so everyone could hear, to share this tribute to his nephew:

“Good evening, I’m Uncle Steve and I assure you that Nate’s spirit is already around us. Yesterday, I swear he was laughing at me.

“Tonight, while we grieve for Heidi, Larry, and Autumn, we honor the good that Nate’s body is about to do for others. While currently they remain strangers, the recipients of this amazing gift will soon be connected to all of us as Nate helps them live a stronger, healthier, and better life. Can you imagine a better legacy for a personal trainer?

“While we support those in pain, let us wish healing for those about to be saved by Nate.

“Let’s send him off with some Aloha and applause!”

Everyone cheered and clapped for Nate, even as tears rained from every eye. Nate’s football teammates, several wearing their Rangers jerseys, reinforced the bonds they had shared on the football field with the unfamiliar bonds of shared grief.

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Photo by Holly Roberts 

Former Nordhoff Rangers football teammates gather to support each other at the Honor Walk.


Nate’s parents, Heidi and Larry Rhoades, and Nate’s girlfriend, Autumn Rojelio, followed behind Nate in a tight embrace.

After the doors closed to the elevator taking Nate to the operating room, his teammates, holding Nate’s helmet, bade their final farewell. On Korey Stevens’ count of 1, 2, 3, the young men called out in unison: “One team, one heartbeat!”

Up to 100 people will be given the gift of life as Nate’s organs will be donated to help others. The 21-year-old was critically injured in a vehicle crash while driving on Victoria Avenue, north of Doris Avenue in Oxnard, on Jan. 20.

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Photo by Leslie Gache

Family and friends of Nathan stand along both sides of the hallway at Ventura County Medical Center for an Honor Walk on Jan. 25

A GoFundMe has been created in Nate’s honor that can be viewed at:

In the GoFundMe message on Jan. 24, Nate’s mother wrote: “Our dear, loving son, Nathan Rhoades, sadly passed away in a tragic car accident on 1/20/2022. He was pronounced brain dead and is still on life support at Ventura County Medical Center, in preparation for his organ donation. We will be donating all of his organs (heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, eyes, intestines, bone marrow, etc.) to help enhance and/or save the lives of up to 100 people. Although we have insurance, we anticipate out-of-pocket medical expenses we will incur, in light of the length of his stay and the efforts to keep his body functioning so that his organs are viable for transplant.

“Nate was an amazing human who touched so many people’s lives. We have heard from so many people who have told us how he helped them, friends who have shared that they could always talk to Nate, how he listened and gave such amazing support in times of need. He was also so funny and hilarious, making so many laugh. Nate was an amazing motivator who loved to help people get into fitness and live healthier lives as a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym.

“We will be having a Celebration of Life for anyone who would like to join us, on March 19th, Sat., at Soule Park in Ojai. Please reach out to me … if you would like to share about Nate or get more info on the event.

“Thank you for your support and contributions to help continue Nate’s legacy.

“Love, Larry and Heidi Rhoades.”

Earlier, on Jan. 21, Nate’s parents posted information about their son’s condition, writing: “Nate is the kindest soul and has been so excited in his job as a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym. He loves helping people get fit and we couldn’t ask for a kinder son.”

In the hospital, Nate’s bed was decorated with posters, reading, “We love you,” “Hero” and "Nate Lives On."

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Photo by Holly Roberts

Nate’s friends Nick Cansler, Brayden Rodgers and Brianna Nichols prepare a table of memories to honor Nate.

In the waiting room, people wrote messages to Nate, also called “Nae Nae,” with colorful markers on green and yellow posterboard, decorated with butterflies, hearts and peace signs. Here are a few:

• “You were an amazing kiddo. You touched the lives of so many...”

• “Nate, I love you brother. We first met in second grade, and became best friends in 4th grade. ... I remember you as being such a funny/goofy guy who made it seem so easy to just be yourself...”

• “Dearest Nate, You have brought much joy into every life you have touched...”

• “You were a blessing to each person you met...”

• “I am beyond grateful to call you my brother...”

• “I love you big guy and I told you that a month ago. You knew the love was there and it always is.”

• “Nae Nae, I love you every single day... missing you...”

 Watch Nate's friend Emily Hahn and the Rhoades' family sing, "First Friend" together at VCMC: Read more about the song here:

To watch all the videos of Emily singing her songs for Nate at the hospital, visit:

“Don't You Worry About  Me”

"First Friend"



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