Those who knew Carter Reilly Irwin recalled his artistic talents, his friendly personality and his strong ties to his neighborhood.
But this past week, the people who had spent time with the recent Santa Monica High School graduate are mourning and grieving, trying to understand what led him to take his own life.
Irwin committed suicide Jan. 10 in the 200 block of Horizon Avenue in Venice. He was 18.
A memorial has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday at the Venice Pier, and loved ones will gather afterward at The Terrace Cafe in Venice.
A crowdfunding campaign through GoFundMe was launched to help Irwin’s family cover funeral expenses. More than $16,000 had been raised as of Friday afternoon.
On Tuesday, Samohi principal Eva Mayoral informed students and staff of Irwin’s death and said she had reached out to Irwin’s mother, Mikal Sky.
“ … our entire community is shocked and deeply saddened with this news,” Mayoral wrote. “I ask that each of you be fully present for one another. … Hold each other close, Samohi. Be the family I know you are.”
Grief counseling has been available to students and staff at the high school, Santa Monica-Malibu school district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said. Additional support will be provided as requested.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Carter’s family and friends and the Samohi community,” SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon said.
Al Trundle, a Samohi house advisor and a longtime district employee, said in a written note that he felt lucky to have known Irwin, a member of the 2015 graduating class.
“This event has renewed my desire to enter into the lives of my students,” Trundle said.
Since he was 8 years old, Irwin was active in the Venice Arts community. He took classes in comics and film as well as photography, which he was interested in pursuing professionally.
“He was a sweet, funny, smart, and wonderful person,” reads a tribute on the nonprofit’s website, “and his many friends, mentors, and the artists who taught him will miss and remember him.”
Through messages on the GoFundMe page, friends and community members painted a portrait of a teenager who was an outgoing citizen in the Venice area.
Debbie McCloskey said Irwin was the first visitor to her home when she moved to the area in 2005.
“He was a wonderful young man and a true pleasure to be around,” she wrote.
Irwin was also an avid cook and liked to share his food with others.
“He was an amazing bright star,” John Riley wrote. “He left so many memories and aromas in our home from his talents in the Kitchen. He will be deeply missed.”
Krista Schwimmer said Irwin always had something nice to say when she ran into him in Venice.
“He would smile, say hello and ask me how I was in such a sincere way,” she wrote. “I will really miss seeing him. He was truly part of the fabric of this neighborhood.”
Irwin’s death came just eight months after the passing of Leo Castillo, a Samohi freshman who was killed after being hit by a car while riding a scooter in Santa Monica.
Local schools have coped with similar tragedies in recent years. In 2013, a 30-year-old Santa Monica College student committed suicide by jumping from a campus parking structure. Five years ago, a Samohi freshman took his own life by jumping from the 10th floor of a nearby hotel.
Help is available through the following resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health: 800-854-7771, dmh.lacounty.gov
- Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Hotline: 877-727-4747, www.didihirsch.org