John Van Meter

The tight-knit paragliding community came together Saturday to remember an instructor and one of his students.

Instructor John Van Meter, 45, of Soda Springs, Calif., and student Travis Kolvet, 21, of Fernley died shortly before noon July 8. The two went off Slide Mountain strapped together in a tandem paraglider and crashed.

Washoe County sheriff's officials and experts in the sport continue to investigate.

Saturday's ceremony in Tahoe Meadows attracted at least 100 people.

"He was an outdoor guy, and this was his favorite place in the whole world," said Lori Van Meter, 38, John Van Meter's wife of 15 years.

Before John began paragliding in 1992, Lori said he held an office job.

"He hated it," she said. "It wasn't the way he wanted to live or die."

Bobby Kolvet, Travis Kolvet's brother, said Travis started the sport nine months ago.

"Travis did some skydiving a couple times, but when he got his glider, that's all he talked about," said Bobby Kolvet, 31, of Reno. "That consumed his weekends."

Bobby Kolvet said he hasn't paraglided but plans to "kite" the glider Travis Kolvet once used. Kiting refers to strapping oneself in the paraglider but remaining on the ground and flying it similar to a kite.

Reno resident Jim Underwood, a speaker at the ceremony and one of Van Meter's former students, tried to put the situation in perspective.

"Most of us came into the world crying while other people were laughing," said Underwood, 67. "We're crying, and now they're laughing."

Tom Chapin of Oakdale, Calif., said Van Meter taught him to paraglide more than four years ago.

"He wasn't in it for the money, he took his time instructing," said Chapin, 48. "You weren't another 'check in the mail' or 'cog on the wheel.' He was there the whole nine yards."

Grant Korgan of Reno referred to Van Meter, his former instructor, as his yardstick in the sport.

"I'd call him and ask, 'How does it look?' to check conditions and safety," said Korgan, 29. "I felt safer when I was in the air with him.

"Flying is an innate human dream, and I do think it's the safest sport I do. John would want us to keep flying. I would've put my life in his hands."

'John would want us to keep flying.

I would've put my life in his hands.'

Grant Korgan former paragliding student.


From: The Reno Gazette-Journal, Reno, Nevada.  July 16, 2006.

Soaring heart, open arms, passionate, creative, funny, mentor to many, quietly energetic full of smiles and love of man. These are just some of the lingering visions of a beloved soul who departed from this earth on July 8, 2006 in a paragliding accident.

His wife, his friends, his community and the gliding world are mourning the loss and celebrating the life of John Van Meter.

John's instant legacy is bringing together people from diverse settings to express their love and utter respect for John. He touched everyone he met and changed each life for the better.

He was born on July 12, 1960, in Ohio. His family moved to Sacramento, California, where he graduated from La Sierra High School in 1978.

He pursued a career as a computer programmer, but was not to be denied his love of the mountains.

After marrying his best friend, Lori, on August 3, 1991, they moved to Donner Summit.

John had already mastered snowboarding and graduated from the first-ever class of certified snowboard instructors, subsequently achieving the highest level of certification. Simultaneously, John began his paragliding career, and advanced to the highest level of certification in that sport as well. He loved to teach, genuinely sharing in his students' excitement. John endeared himself to his community, was a man who moved without effort, a pacifist, a lover of humans and animals, a kind and caring person. He never took the popular path and consequently lived a life worth living. His morals were his compass. If the measure of life is the impact one has on others, John surpassed the mark and his effect has no boundaries.

John is survived by his wife, Lori, and friends too numerous to count.

All will gather at Mt. Rose Meadows on Saturday, July 15, 2006, at 4:00 p.m. to honor his special existence and celebrate his uniqueness.

Information about the service, including directions, can be found at John's web site: Anyone wishing to make financial contributions can also do so through the web site.


From: The Reno Gazette-Journal, Reno, Nevada.  July 15, 2006.


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