Hillsboro family adjusts to life after death of son

Seth Mader

The streets of Hillsboro are a lot quieter now than they used to be without the big, noisy, gray truck with the famous fishing poles as “decoration” hanging out the back and the smiling face of its 16 year-old owner Seth Mader inside driving it around. And the noise is very much missed.
“Everyone I talk to says how much they miss hearing his truck,” said Mom Erin.
Seth was only 16 when his life tragically ended on Nov. 26, 2022, when he was riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) out at the Marion County Lake.
He had been out with close friend Bradi Bernhardt and a few others, but went out for a ride on his own. After failing to locate him, and thinking he had gotten stuck and ran out of gas, Bernhardt called his mom. His parents and a few more friends came out to join the others in looking for him. He was eventually found by his father Mike and brother Sean.
While it is every parent’s worst nightmare to find their child no longer alive, Mike and Erin have found peace in having had time with their son’s body before emergency personnel came in and took over the scene.
“I got to hold my son and kiss him,” said Mike.
Mike and Erin are adjusting to life without their son and have had some time to reflect on the short but full life that he lived.
“Looking back, it’s almost like he lived his life like he knew he wasn’t going to be here very long. He was really adamant about not needing school,” said Mike.
“He hated school and that it took up time that he could be fishing,” said Erin.
Seth loved to be outside fishing and riding his four wheeler.
“Even as a baby if he was crying, he would stop if you took him outside,” said Mike. “And his first words were walleye and crappie.”
Mike said Seth was catching fish sitting in his stroller before he could even walk. He would hold the pole until a fish was on the line and then Mike would reel it in. Then Seth would hold the fish.
Erin said, “He fished all over the county – if he saw a body of water, he fished it. He almost always caught something. He would bring them home, clean them and we would eat them. ”
He had permission to fish at 11 ponds around town, and he was at them all the time even staying out all night.
“We always knew he was out fishing, and we weren’t worried about him partying. He wasn’t into that,” said Erin.
“One time he fell asleep and then got a fish on the line and it jerked the pole and woke him up,” said Bernhardt.
He often fished on his lunch breaks and would even be late going back to school when he was a student at Hillsboro High School (HHS).
Seth struggled with traditional school and had recently switched to online school through Smoky Valley Virtual Charter School. He was scheduled to graduate ahead of time in October of this year.
Mike said, “Seth was proud of his grades this year, and he would smile when he would talk about them. It’s the first year he’s actually been proud of himself about school.”
Seth worked weekends at Container Services (CSI) in Hillsboro so he worked three 12-hours shifts and then had the rest of the week and weekend open to go fishing. Seth planned to work at CSI until he was 18 and could work at Agco with his dad.
He loved teasing his friends who were still in school and would often drive by HHS revving his truck engine to remind his friends that he was free while they were still stuck at school.
Mike said Seth woke up with a whole day ahead of him always ready to conquer the world and get in everything that he could.
“He lived like he had a short amount of time to get everything in,” said Mike.
In addition to working hard at any job he had, he was always quick to help out any family member or anyone who needed a hand.
“He could be in the middle of fishing, but if I needed help with a project, I could call or text him and he would pack it up and be right there to help me. He never hesitated,” said Mike.
Seth loved to help do stuff for others. He would often run errands for Erin who liked to stay at home. He gladly volunteered to get her drinks at Sonic or grab items at Dales or Casey’s as long as he could sneak some stuff in, too.
“He would hand me the list and tell me he would be right back. Next thing you know, I see him walking up with his favorite energy drinks to sneak in with everything,” said Bernhardt.
Erin said she knew he was grabbing stuff for himself, too, but that was the worst he ever did and she thought it was funny.
“I knew what he was doing even if he thought he was being sneaky,” she said. “I just appreciated him getting me stuff even if it was the wrong stuff most of the time.”
While Seth preferred being one one one with people rather than in large groups, his friends and family were important to him. He especially enjoyed spending time with Bernhardt. He also was close to his family who miss him very much. In fact his family and Bernhardt’s family get together every Saturday night and drink some energy drinks and say a few words in his honor.
“He would probably hate that we have a big group get together since he didn’t love big groups, but I think he would like that we are all together thinking about him,” said Erin. “He would give us a hard time though because that is just what he did. He loved giving us all a hard time.”
“He was a jokester,” said Bernhardt.
Mike, Erin and Bernhardt have felt close to Seth as members of the community have shared memories and stories with them. People have also brought by gifts they have made, meals, groceries and more.
“People have been so kind and generous,” Erin said.
And they have felt Seth’s presence as well.
Family and friends close to Seth have been out to the site where he died often and almost always see an eagle there. They take it as a sign that Seth is there watching over them, and it has been a comfort to them.
For Erin and Mike, some days are easier than others.
“Sometimes it feels like it just happened and other times it feels like it’s been longer than it has,” said Erin. “Hearing stories of what he meant to others helps us.”
According to the Mader family, the spot where the accident occurred at the Marion County Lake has had more than one fatality and there is no guardrail or any other markings to indicate potential dangerous conditions. The family is looking into seeing if anything can be done there to change that to prevent future accidents from happening.
They are also still covering funeral expenses. If you would like to help the family, you can contribute to the Seth Mader Memorial fund through Emprise Bank or Jost Funeral Home.

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