Jonathan’s Court was dedicated on the afternoon of Oct. 20 as an enduring monument to a charismatic young man who reached out to so many others with pure joy in his heart until his life was taken in the waters off Jaycee Park in March 2015. The newly constructed outdoor basketball court was the fulfillment of his dream to bring as much happiness to as many as he possibly could.
By all objective measures the odds were stacked against Jonathan Threewitts, but he did not let tough circumstances keep him down. I did not personally have the honor of meeting him, but I truly wish I had. He died at age 17 but he lives on forever in the fond reflections of those who were privileged enough to know and understand him.
The ceremony was held at Epic Missions where Alyssa Munsie, community outreach director, shared some thoughts and memories of Jonathan.
“Jonathan and his sister Anna had been in and out of the state’s care since they were 2 years old,” Munsie told us. “Their family lost custody of them and they were both up for adoption for years. They resided at Hibiscus House, and even though they lacked family, as some say, they made up for it by the way they treated each other. They lived in separate houses but made sure to meet up and have dinner every night. I have never seen siblings that close, and I have three older brothers.
“The basketball court was Jonathan’s birth child. He said kids in the community needed a place to play basketball that was safe and fun. Jonathan and Anna had captured the hearts of all of our staff. When he passed away that truly rocked our world here. We decided the best way to honor Jonathan was to make his basketball court happen. This is the safe space that Jonathan wanted.”
We had a chance to talk with two of Jonathan’s friends who were with him at the beach on a dreadful day that began so innocently.
“Everybody was bored at the house so I suggested we all go to the beach,” Kennel Rousseau recalled. “Nobody really wanted to go at first until they heard that some girls were going. Everybody suddenly changed their minds, so we packed up and went.
“It was one of the best days, too. We were in the water having a good time. We got out and took pictures and hung out for a little bit. We got back in the water, went a little deeper, and I don’t know where this rip current came from. Not everybody was deep and they didn’t have any trouble. But some of us did.
“Jonathan pushed me toward the shore out of the current and then the current grabbed him. I saw Jonathan sinking and yelling for help and I tried to get to him and grab him, but the last thing I saw was his hand and then he went down. He saved my life.”
Even through all of the torment and confusion, Jonathan and Roosevelt Franklin helped rescue Rousseau and three others fighting the surf for their lives.
“We saved everybody else but I couldn’t save my best friend,” Franklin said. “We were really close and his death has affected me for a long time. It shook my faith because he was such a good person. You don’t expect something like that to happen to somebody like that.”
Jonathan’s flamboyance and zest for life attracted a gathering of local politicians, philanthropists, first responders and dozens of young people to the dedication of his court.
Anna Threewitts assisted in the ribbon cutting after several speakers – including Vero Beach High football coach Lenny Jankowski – paid tribute to her brother. She said, “He was really a fun and energetic person. He would get along with everybody. He was just a loving soul. He would make the best of every situation and that’s what I remember about him the most.”
Jonathan played football at VBHS and loved to play basketball as well. He would often be seen shooting hoops off a rickety backboard at Epic Missions. He would surely have enjoyed playing on his new court with friends both old and new.
He was a straight-A student and wanted to be a neurologist. Some of us know him a little better now.