Jordan Boner, an Arroyo Grande native living in Phoenix, Arizona, planned to move back to California this past weekend.
Instead, he was in an Arizona hospital after being found severely injured on the side of a Phoenix highway early Friday morning. He died Monday.
“His life was really, really going in a good direction,” said Ben Rydberg, one of Boner’s closest friends.
Boner had just left his full-time job at a Marriott resort in Phoenix and had a new job lined up in Santa Rosa, where he was supposed to start in early August, Rydberg said.
He planned to return to Arroyo Grande last weekend to spend time with loved ones before starting the new job, Rydberg said. His last day at his Phoenix job was July 17, and he had a few days before he left for California.
The details of what happened to Boner early Friday morning are mostly unknown.
A Phoenix TV station reported that authorities had closed an off ramp of northbound Interstate 17 at Peoria Avenue about 1 a.m. as police investigated reports of an injured person. Phoenix police Sgt. Armando Carbajal told AZFamily.com that a man was taken to the hospital in “extremely critical condition.”
Carbajal told The Tribune in an email that Boner suffered blunt force trauma and “the circumstances surrounding the death are suspicious.”
He said an autopsy was performed Wednesday and the results are pending.
Boner had a skull fracture and other serious injuries, according to Rydberg and a GoFundMe page that was set up by another friend, Alexis Netterstrom.
When Rydberg heard Boner was in the hospital, “I shut off. I said, ‘I don’t care what happened, I’m going to Arizona and I’m going to try to bring my friend back,’ ” he said.
Rydberg and two friends packed up and left for Arizona from Arroyo Grande about 4:30 that afternoon.
Other friends showed up at the hospital, as well — from all over. Scotty Cusack, a friend of Boner’s since seventh grade, flew from Dallas to Phoenix on Friday night, right after he got the news.
“At least 10 of us (friends) were there; the room was never empty,” Cusack said. “For people to be driving from all over, whether it be from SLO and A.G. to me in Dallas — and he had a friend that flew in from Mexico City — people making the last-minute 10-hour drive to see him for an hour really shows how he touched people.”
“No one wanted to give up hope. We were praying for a miracle; if it would happen, it would happen to him,” Netterstrom said.
When Boner died, his organs were donated, which means “his love for people gets to continue,” said his sister, Sabrina Hernandez, in a message to The Tribune, adding that he was also a bone marrow and tissue donor and that those donations would help others. “That is a true testament of my brother’s caring nature.”
That nature showed in the way he treated his friends. Cusack said they maintained a strong bond even though they went to different high schools and colleges, and they video chatted often.
“He always FaceTime’d, he never called. He wanted to see your face,” Cusack said. “He was seriously so caring.”
Netterstrom recalled when she and a friend drove up from SLO County to Chico to visit Boner, who was studying at Chico State. Just as they were leaving to go home, they totaled their car in a crash.
“Boner literally came and picked us up and drove us all the way back to SLO and then turned back around to Chico,” she said. “He was so genuine.”
Boner was friendly and welcoming to everyone, his friends said.
“If he didn’t meet someone every day, it was a weird day,” Rydberg said, remembering how Boner used to chat with customers when he worked at Moondoggies in Pismo Beach. “As soon as you walked in, you were human, and he wanted to know what was going on in your life.”
“If something is to be known about him, it’s how accepting he was, to any human,” Rydberg added.
Boner’s top priority, his friends said, was his family — and that was the reason for starting the GoFundMe.
“We know Jordan worked so hard to help his family and wanted the best for them, and they were already going through a rough time,” Netterstrom said.
Boner’s older brother died just weeks ago, according to friends.
“He would want nothing more than for his family to not be concerned about money. He wouldn’t want any financial burden for them,” Netterstrom said. “We were thinking about what he would want and about his family who has been through so much tragedy.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the GoFundMe account had raised $30,521 of a $50,000 goal.
Cusack said he had one last FaceTime call with Boner the day before he died. He said Boner told him that he was moving back home for a little bit before heading to his new job in Northern California.
“He was telling me he’s in the happiest place he’d ever been,” Cusack said.
Boner also talked to him about his brother’s wake, he said.
“That’s when he told me, ‘If I ever die before you, I don’t want you to be sad. I want you to be happy and to celebrate my life,’ ” Cusack said. “And we’re going to end up having a huge party for him.”
Rydberg said Boner dreamed of running a hotel one day and always planned to return to SLO County.
“You would’ve known about him. You would’ve heard about him,” Rydberg said. “He would’ve been a name if you were from SLO County.”