APPLE VALLEY — A portion of Garrett Graham Pontier’s ashes have been entombed at a local mortuary. Another rests at home in the care of his parents.


Nearly two months after the 22-year-old San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy was killed in an off-duty crash on Interstate 15, his family is preparing a memorial service for Pontier, whose passions included “justice, protecting the underdog and having a good time.”


“Garrett made the most of his childhood and even as an adult was just a kid at heart,” his mother, Julie Pontier told the Daily Press. “I got the impression that even if he lived to be 80, he was never going to grow up. I love that about him.”


On March 31, Garrett Pontier died after his 2003 Honda Accord collided with the rear of a truck-tractor combination headed northbound on the freeway in Hesperia, the California Highway Patrol reported.


A 21-year-old male passenger in the Honda suffered major injuries and was flown to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, the CHP said.


In a letter, Kendall Pontier called his son “my adventure buddy, my go-to guy, my friend,” and told him he was “grateful for the relationship we shared during your time on this earth.”


Coming to grips with Garrett Pontier’s death in the midst of California’s stay-at-home order has made the mourning process difficult for the family.


“There is a huge hole in my life now that you’re gone and I can’t even begin to explain the sadness I feel right now,” Kendall Pontier wrote. “However, God had a reason to take you home with Him earlier than we all wanted and we’ll trust His plan.”


Garrett Pontier was entombed at Sunset Hills in Apple Valley. A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. June 13 at High Desert Church in Victorville. The family plans to take the rest of his ashes to some of his favorite places.


Kendall Pontier said he’s grateful for his son’s strong faith in Jesus Christ and spoke of the loyalty, love, support and protection Garrett Pontier demonstrated toward his family.


“It was important to Garrett that his friends and co-partners at the Sheriff’s Department knew about Jesus,” he said.


Kendall Pontier recalled trips to Dumont Dunes, and the Mammoth and June Lake areas. There the family, or sometimes just father and son, would ride motorcycles, drive sandrails, camp and listen to music.


Garrett Pontier’s older sister, Corrie Havard, said her brother’s 22 years were filled with more adventure than most people experience in 80.


“Garrett was three years younger ... and nine inches taller, so he got to be both my little brother and my big brother,” Havard said. “From childhood into adulthood, he looked out for me and protected me without fail.”


Growing up, Garrett Pontier shared a room with his older brother, Trevor, who said they were always close as a result. Trevor Pontier said his brother was the one person who could keep up with him.


“He was the man everyone wanted to be, and I’m so proud of him and I was impressed with the maturity that he gained through going through the Sheriff’s academy,” Trevor Pontier said. “I love him so much and I miss him like crazy, but I know I’ll be seeing him again in heaven.”


Born Sept. 3, 1997, at Victor Valley Hospital, Garrett Pontier lived in the same house in Apple Valley until he graduated from Apple Valley High School in 2016.


He attended High Desert Church and, in 2015, was baptized after he “rededicated his life to Christ at Hume Lake summer camp” in Central California, Julie Pontier said.


In January 2016, Apple Valley High’s boys’ basketball team beat Sultana in a game that saw Garrett Pontier pull down 12 rebounds and his friend, Keenan Struebing, score 35 points, the Daily Press reported.


Strubing called Garrett Pontier his “older brother and role model,” adding that he “tried so hard to be like” his friend.


“He was always the most adventurous, funny and fearless person I have ever met,” Struebing said.


Garrett Pontier was accepted into the Sheriff's Academy in June 2019. After joining the department, he was assigned to the High Desert Detention Center in January.


His mother said he loved the job and helping his community.


“Garrett was a protector from an early age, and his 6-feet 6-inch stature and strength gave him an advantage over just about everyone he met, but he strove to use his advantage to protect people,” Julie Pontier said.


Sheriff John McMahon called Garrett Pontier’s sudden passing tragic and heartbreaking, especially for his family who supported his dream of becoming a deputy sheriff.


“To lose such a young man with his whole life and career ahead of him is devastating,” McMahon said.


In a statement, High Desert Detention Center Capt. Kenneth Lutz said he could not have asked for a better deputy, describing Garrett Pontier as a “shining light that drew everyone to him.”


Earlier this year, Sheriff’s personnel and academy classmates climbed Academy Peak to honor the fallen deputy. There, they created a temporary rock memorial, Julie Pontier said.


Garrett Pontier was an observant, quietly contemplative son. He often noticed things others missed. He didn’t talk or act without thinking it through. When he did speak, it was often hilarious, his mother said.


“Garrett put the needs of others before his own. He would usually just go with the flow whatever group he was with,” Julie Pontier said. “He didn’t put his foot down often, but when he did there was no budging it.”


Garrett Pontier was strong, coordinated and fearless from a young age. He spent most of his childhood keeping up with older siblings, his mother said. But he was also sensitive and kind.


Havard said her brother is the person she knew she could call whenever she needed help. He always showed up for her.


Struebing spoke of his friend’s protective and caring nature.


“As confident as Garrett was, he was also the most humble person I have ever met,” Struebing said. “He would never showboat, or even care to tell people about his accomplishments. Garrett would do something amazing and he would downplay what he did because he didn’t care.”


Struebing said anytime the friends ended a conversation on the phone or in person, Garrett Pontier always told him “love you.”


“It was small qualities like this that made him the best man I’ve ever had the pleasure to know,” Struebing said.


Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, or by email at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.