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Spokane lacrosse community mourns Brian O'Rourk, a 'one in a million' family man and Air Force veteran of high faith killed in plane crash

Spokesman-Review - 6/13/2024

Jun. 13—Brian O'Rourk was a "one in a million" kind of man — who passionately loved his family, piloted aircraft and spread enthusiasm for youth lacrosse, his friends say. He died in a plane crash Wednesday morning in the mountains of North Idaho.

Two of his four children were with him in the crash, according to the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office. The boys, ages 21 and 14, escaped the single engine Cessna plane and ran to the road to call for help. The crash is under investigation, the sheriff's office said.

O'Rourk, 54, was known for wearing many hats, according to his friends, including being a founding board member for the Chesterton Academy of Notre Dame, a Catholic high school in Hillyard, where he was the lacrosse coach and athletic director. He also served as a founding board member for Spokane Youth Lacrosse, a lacrosse coach at Gonzaga Preparatory School, trained high school referees in Spokane and helped coordinate regional lacrosse tournaments.

As a former Air Force pilot who later became a pilot for FedEx, he loved to fly. But his drive for life was his family and his faith.

Chesterton's chairman, Zach Mallahan, saw just how passionate O'Rourk was. His approach to any task revolved around the community's children and families, but more so his own, he said.

"In our Catholic faith, we say parents are primary educators of children. He lived that," Mallahan said. "He would do anything for his kids."

O'Rourk grew up in New York and eventually moved to Spokane, according to his biography on Chesterton's website. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and was a Division 1 Lacrosse player. O'Rourk later served in the Air Force Reserve for five years as an Air Force Academy admissions liaison officer.

Spokane was where he he met his wife, Therese. The two were married in 1997 and had four children together.

Mallahan first met O'Rourk when the two founded the school board in 2019. Slowly, their lives began to intertwine, and Mallahan saw firsthand just how driven O'Rourk was.

"He lived his core values. If he saw an injustice, he'd make sure to call it out. And he just had so many projects," he said. O'Rourk saw everything to completion and almost needed more time in a day to fit every one of his goals in, Mallahan said.

"I saw him get emotional when thinking about building up teams and out community, bringing up those on the lower end who needed it the most. That's who he was," he said about O'Rourk. "When he spoke from the heart, it was obvious."

On Thursday, Mallahan said members of the Catholic church held a rosary followed by mass to honor O'Rourk. While the school is still taking time to digest the news of his death, they are "continuing to pray," Mallahan said.

O'Rourk's latest project was a plan to raise money to build a new gym for Chesterton. Mallahan believes that once the money is raised, that gym will be named after O'Rourk.

"We are still trying to wrap our minds around it," Mallahan said. "Our hearts go out to his family."

Josh Soehner, treasurer of the board for Spokane Youth Lacrosse, described O'Rourk as "a one in a million kind of guy."

"There aren't people like him that come around that often," he said.

O'Rourk did so much in the community, Soehner said, it's going to take more than one person to do what he did for the community, and the kids who looked up to him.

When Soehner first met O'Rourk, their two lacrosse teams were playing against each other. Soehner's team ran a play that O'Rourk was impressed by, he said.

"He made a comment about how great the team performed. Hearing him say that — because I was new to lacrosse — meant so much to me. Like "Wow, Brian O'Rourk said that!'" Soehner said. "I respect him so much. That is something special. He's a mentor to me and I've learned so much."

Like Soehner, other board members from Spokane Youth Lacrosse are mourning O'Rourk's death, while appreciating his life.

Amanda Roggenbauer, a former Spokane Youth Lacrosse board president who worked with O'Rourk for eight years, said his passion to grow lacrosse in the area was "unmatched." She recalled anytime the board would discuss a different approach to something, his response was always the same: "Will this grow the game?"

"He knew how amazing having a strong lacrosse community can be and wanted that for Eastern Washington," Roggenbauer said. "He wore so many different shoes it will be impossible to fill them all."

Another former president of the board, Allison Miller, said O'Rourk "was always the cool head in the room."

He was the person she'd go to if she needed a sense of direction or help with making a decision, Miller said. As a thoughtful, practical and principled decision maker, he had everyone's best interests at heart.

"Other than being the a fundamental part of youth lacrosse in Spokane, Brian was an incredible human being," she said. "He was kind, respectful, thoughtful and had uncompromising integrity. He loved his family with ferocity and was a wonderful father."

Miller said she is heartbroken for O'Rourk's family and the lacrosse community. He will be greatly missed, she said.

"He left an indelible impact on his community," Miller said. "He deserves to be honored."

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