More than 1,000 attend Goheen twins memorial at Oak Harbor High School

Janeah’s and Janesah’s mother, Debbie Goheen, speaks during Saturday’s memorial service for the twins. - Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times
Janeah’s and Janesah’s mother, Debbie Goheen, speaks during Saturday’s memorial service for the twins.
— image credit: Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times

More than 1,000 people gathered to grieve and celebrate the lives of Janeah and Janesah Goheen on Saturday.

The VFW Riders served as the color guard outside the building as community members poured into the Oak Harbor High School gymnasium to show their respects.

Janesah Danae Goheen, 17, passed away Nov. 11 at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle from injuries sustained in the Oct. 31 car crash in Skagit County. Her twin sister, Janeah Dawn Goheen, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Both parents, Jim and Debbie Goheen, spoke to the crowd during the service.

“Never could we imagine a city come together as you have,” Jim Goheen said. “I’m humbled. I’m truly humbled to see what I see here today.”

The twins would’ve loved to greet everyone, he said.

At the hospital, they were with other parents who were facing the same trials as themselves, and they bore those burdens together. All those tragedies are still occurring every day, he said.

“Next Halloween, you remember her, by looking at the ones you love most and tell them you love them,” Jim Goheen said.

Because of their loss, Debbie and Jim Goheen both said priorities are being re-evaluated throughout the community. Relationships, families and  marriages are healing by people taking the time to be with each other and tell those in their lives that they love them.

Debbie Goheen said that her daughters were amazing from the very beginning. During her pregnancy, one of the twins was breached, but she said she prayed to have her turn around so she could have a natural birth.

“Sure enough, one turned around and I was able to have them naturally,” Debbie Goheen said.

Everyone was amazed by the strength of Debbie and Jim Goheen, and how they were able to look after those around them.

“We cannot know how you support us, when it’s us who should support you,” Christina Federighi said.

Federighi, a teacher and tutor of the twins who spoke at the memorial, said the girls would start singing in the middle of an exam in perfect harmony. Janesah had the lower voice, while Janeah had the higher. They were wonderfully complementary and compatible in every way. Together they were in harmony here on Earth, and they still are now.

“We are part of their song,” Federighi said.

A friend of the twins’ spoke during the service, Anne TePaske. When they were growing up, she said her siblings and the Goheens played a lot together ‚so much in fact they wanted to call themselves the GoPaskes, but it didn’t stick.

“They are my bestest friends,” Anne TePaske said. “This is something that shouldn’t be happening right now.”

She reminisced over memories, such as celebrating their birthday with two separate parties, in two separate rooms on the same night. But the night was great because everyone got twice the cake, she said.

Even though they will not be at her wedding whenever it arrives, or have their kids play together in the distant future, the Goheen twins were part of her entire childhood.

“I will tell my kids about all the adventures we had together,” Anne TePaske said.

The Goheen’s pastor from Montana came to show his support for the family. Pastor Jim Cargill of Solid Rock Church in Missoula has known Debbie Goheen since she was 10 years old. He married Debbie and Jim Goheen, and was present for all five of their children’s births.

“When you don’t understand something, trust God,” Cargill said to the crowd.

Karen TePaske, Anne TePaske’s mother, has known the family for 25 years. They thought of each others’ children as their own.

“Love is an action,” Karen TePaske said. “It looks like something.”

Many friends and family poured into Harborview to support the Goheens, she said. At one point there were 32 people and five pastors.

“That was love in action,” Karen TePaske said. “When it’s all said and done, it’s relationships and people that matter.”

The hospital staff wasn’t used to the amount of support the family had during that time.

“I think the doctors were shocked to see the support around the Goheen family,” said Pastor Michael Hurley from Life Church.

Many people were experiencing the different stages of grief, from anger, to acceptance at the memorial. Pastors offered their guidance to help those heal who needed it.

Other community members spoke during the service.

“Our hearts are breaking, we don’t understand why and we probably never will,” said Lance Gibbon, Oak Harbor School District superintendent. He is a member of the Living Word congregation where the twins worshipped.

The twins attended Oak Harbor schools, including the high school, but were attending Skagit Valley College in the Running Start program this year.

Even though people didn’t know the twins personally, they still came to the service.

“It affected people who didn’t know them very well,” said Emilie Renninger, an 2012 Oak Harbor graduate. “It’s surreal. It could’ve been any one of us. They were just three girls driving down to Seattle to have a good time.”


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