September 05, 2012 - A member of Oxford High School's Class of 2009 who was full of life and rich with friends unfortunately died by suicide Aug. 29.
Coby Etherton, 21, passed away as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, according to Oakland County Sheriff's Lt. Dan Toth, commander of the Orion Township substation.
The incident took place at Orion Cove Apartments on Kimberly in Orion Township. He had recently moved there with his girlfriend. She was in the apartment at the time of his death and "very distraught" afterward, according to Toth.
"The whole thing is pretty sad," the lieutenant said.
Etherton's death came as quite a shock to his family and friends, who knew him to be someone who lived life to its fullest, loved everyone around him and pursued his passions with great zeal.
"He was just a stellar human being," said cousin Stephanie Sexton, of Oxford. "He was everyone's friend. He had no enemies in the the world . . . His friends were his family. He was very close with everybody. Coby was best friends with everybody."
Though no one can be certain, this closeness to others and deep feelings toward those around him might have been a contributing factor in Etherton's death. A "very good friend" of his recently took his own life at a military base in San Diego, California after returning home from a tour in Iraq, according to Sexton.
"I don't know how much it really contributed to (Etherton's suicide), but my brother was always one of those people that took stuff like that pretty hard," said older brother Kyle Etherton, who's a 2008 OHS graduate. "He cared a lot about people . . . If you're that kind of person, when people do stuff like that, you kind of take it personally. You wonder, 'Why didn't he call?' You think, 'I could have been there. I let you down.' Stuff like that."
"I know my brother and I know that he probably took it a lot harder than what he showed," Kyle added.
Toth noted Etherton's friend's suicide happened Aug. 25. That was the last day Etherton posted anything on his Facebook page. His last post – and only post that day – had nothing to do with his friend's suicide.
Etherton left behind no explanation as to why he decided to end his life.
Toth indicated that along with his friend's death, Etherton was dealing with some other personal issues, but he said in the end, it would "all be speculation" as to why he shot himself. He said it's impossible to know "what's in people's heads" when something like this happens.
"In law enforcement, we call it a permanent solution to temporary issues," Toth added.
Kyle noted Etherton was dealing with a "one or two things," but "there was nothing that would make you think that this is what it would come to."
In the midst of their catastrophic grief and overwhelming sense of loss, Etherton's family and friends are sharing memories of the good person he was and celebrating the active and meaningful life he lived.
Sexton will never forget Etherton's "infectious smile" and how he was "so easy to talk to." She's going to miss "the way that he could brighten up anybody's day, no matter how bad it was."
"He was going to go places in life," she said.
One of Etherton's biggest joys was fishing. "He was a huge fisherman. He was so good at it and such a good teacher," said Sexton, who noted how Etherton taught her daughter and her brother's sons the art of angling. "He was so good with the kids. He would have made the best father and husband."
For the last two years, Etherton spent his winters in Florida working as a commercial fisherman. He was the first-mate and deck-hand on the Daystar commercial fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico.
"He fished to make money off (selling) the fish and he took people out and showed them how to fish," Sexton said. "He could drop a dime in the water and catch a shark."
In addition to fishing, Etherton loved golfing, hunting and riding motorcycles.
"He was just always doing something outdoors," Sexton said. "He was always out and about, having fun with a smile on his face."
As a kid, Etherton played baseball for the Oxford Recreational Baseball Association (ORBA). Later, he played football and wrestled for Oxford High School.
"He wasn't couch-bound watching TV or glued to the internet," Sexton added. "He was out there. He enjoyed the beauty in life. He understood the beauty in life and he was always out looking for more."
"He was an American," Kyle said. "He loved to hunt and he loved to fish. That's honestly the best way I can describe him . . . He loved to just be outdoors and have that freedom of being on the open sea . . . He could do whatever he wanted. No one's there to interfere with you – you're just there with Mother Nature interacting (with her) . . . There's no cars driving by, there's no loud people. There's just tranquility."
Kyle's going to miss simply having Etherton around and sharing that brotherly "bond."
"He was my only brother and our family's pretty small," he said.
When he wasn't playing hard, Etherton was working hard.
When he was in Michigan during the warmer months, Etherton worked for Birmingham Sealcoat, but he was about to start a new job with Casemer Tool & Machine in Oxford.
"He was supposed to start there on Tuesday (Sept. 4)," Sexton said.
Etherton's family has one clear message for anyone reading this story who may be contemplating suicide:
"You've really got to reach out," Sexton said. "You've gotta talk to somebody. Taking this way is not the answer. It doesn't solve anything.
"They just want people to look at this (story) and see the huge loss that we're all (experiencing) right now."
"Reach out before you make a crazy decision," Kyle said. "Don't make a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
"No matter how much you feel like nobody cares, there's always somebody that's going to care. Just pick up the phone and call them. Or go somewhere and talk to somebody."
Kyle believes the Oxford school district needs to focus more on suicide awareness, prevention, counseling and identifying the signs.
"It really is like a silent killer," he said. "(Having suicidal thoughts is) one of those things that people hide – they're embarrassed to talk about it or tell anybody about it. They feel like they're going to be seen as weak. It's something that people are ashamed to admit they have."
Kyle said when a person is feeling so "lost" or "hopeless" that they're contemplating suicide, "it takes a lot of courage to be able to step up and reach out to somebody."
"That's the point I want to make," he continued. "No matter how you feel, at least reach out. Because there's a lot more people who care than you realize; people who will be there for you in situations like that."
Kyle indicated he'd like to be involved in helping Oxford Schools establish some sort of suicide prevention/counseling program.
"I'd really like to dedicate my time and some of my money to something like this for Oxford – that's where my heart is, that's where my friends are, that's where my family is," he said. "I really want to help the people there try to start something to raise awareness."
"Just in the last couple years, (suicide's) been more and more and more common," Kyle noted. "I think there really should be something set up. It is a disease. It's not something that can be just fixed; it's something that has to be treated and it's nothing to be ashamed of."
Greatly loved son of Maria Reuter Mageli and Norris L. Mageli II, (Michael) Tracy Etherton and Evie Lou Kalena. Beloved brother of Kyle Michael Etherton. Etherton also leaves behind the love of his life and soulmate, Ali Tribble. Loving step-grandmother Mary Auker and stepbrothers Brandon Mageli and Erik Mageli. Dearly loved nephew of Rachel and Roger Day, Eric and Connie Reuter, Ronald and Karen Etherton, Tina and Derek Mauk, Sgt.Kelly Sexton. Cousin to Jeremy Day, Curtis Etherton, Heather, Ashley & Amber Mauk, Gary & Stephanie Sexton and Stephanie Keskinen. Also many other extended family members. Preceded in death by his beloved grandparents; Harold & Dolores Reuter,
(Arthur) Fred & Christine Etherton and Charles Auker.
A funeral was held Monday, Sept. 3 at Lynch & Sons Funeral Directors Bossardet Chapel in Oxford. Memorial contributions may be made to his mother Maria Mageli.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.