GRAND FORKS — The Grand Forks music community is mourning the loss of a teen who was shot and killed Sunday, Jan. 26, and plans to honor him with a big performance and fundraising event this weekend to help his family pay for funeral expenses.
Family friend Jamie Leao says it's been hard since she learned Jonah Borth died. She can't remember a day without seeing the 15-year-old high school student, whose best friend was her son.
Borth, an honor student at Red River High School, is being remembered for loving his church and for his positive energy, joy and laughter.
"He just truly loved people," Leao said. "Nobody could give a hug like him — he was a big guy."
Borth was a longtime bass with the Grand Cities Children's Choir, where founder and director Melanie Popejoy said his round, resonant voice provided a fullness to their sound.
"When he lent it to the choir, the bottom filled out and it just enhanced the rest of our sounds," she said. "With his personality and enthusiasm for music, (his voice) was a joyful instrument He sang with just joy on his face."
The Grand Cities Children's Choir's big performance of the year, the Dessert Cabaret, starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1. Proceeds from tickets, which are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, will go to Borth's family to help with funeral costs. The event was supposed to be a fundraiser for the choir's trip this year to Carnegie Hall in New York City, but is now dedicated to Borth and his family.
Borth had spent the past year practicing for the audition for his chance to have a solo at this year's Dessert Cabaret.
"There was a magical moment," Popejoy said. "He sang so well. And the other person who was judging and myself, we sat with tears in our eyes. I looked at Jonah and said 'you have never sounded better.' "
While Jonah's voice may now be silent, Leao said the legacy he leaves behind will be a high note in the community.
"It brings some peace to know the impact he has had," she said. "We are not going to let violence win, we are going to be intense and we are going to make music like music has never been made before."
Still, Borth will be missed.
"Every voice is integral," Popejoy said. "We are going to miss that voice in our choir, we are going to miss his personality (and) we are going to miss his compassion."