A long, black automobile rolled up to East Lawn Memorial Park about 12:15 p.m. Thursday with 17-year-old Josh Wingert’s remains inside. But Josh wouldn’t have wanted to show up to his internment in a hearse.
No, Josh’s 14-year-old brother Jacob stepped out of a Batmobile to deliver his ashes and a few mementos to an niche, where his urn would be kept alongside his grandmother’s.
Wingert was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer 2½ years ago and succumbed to his illness on Feb. 28. He spent the last two months of his life in hospice care, where he and his family watched every episode of the Adam West-era “Batman” TV show, his father, Jeff, said.
“Batman” had always held a special place in Josh’s heart, Jeff said, especially the older series. A year after Josh was diagnosed, some mutual friends put the family in contact with Bob Goldsand, an El Dorado Hills resident and owner of one of seven certified Batmobile replicas in existence, who agreed to give the teen a ride in his souped-up wheels.
“That was a big day. He actually commented to my wife as he saw it, ‘This is the best day of my life,’ ” Jeff said. “As a parent, you love hearing that kind of stuff.”
Jacob wasn’t able to accompany Josh and Goldsand that day, so Jeff and his wife Jessica wanted to give him one last chance to do so. He sat shotgun as Goldsand cruised around East Sacramento escorted by Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars, clutching a box with his brother’s ashes as they slowly drove past the children lined outside Josh’s old elementary, middle and high schools.
If cancer was going to stop Josh's life short, he was going to go out in style. The Make-A-Wish Foundation sent the family to Disneyland, and Josh got to meet Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants (his favorite team) before attending his first game. Actor Will Ferrell also sent Josh a personalized video about a week before the 17-year-old’s death.
Former Giants ace Tim Lincecum sent an autographed baseball to a celebration of life ceremony at Kit Carson International Academy after one of Josh’s old teachers sent a letter to his new team, the Texas Rangers, saying that he had been Josh’s favorite player. The Giants also sent the Wingerts a care package after Josh’s death and plan to host the family for a game in San Francisco this summer.
“It’s heartbreaking, the whole journey that we had with our boy. But along the way, a lot of really cool things happened,” Jeff said.
Having a police escort made for a smoother ride to the interment. The caravan crawled across East Sacramento, taking about 45 minutes to travel 2 or 3 miles, but no one was in a rush to say goodbye.
“The response that we got, it was amazing,” Jeff said. “It’s about taking stress off your plate when you're in this kind of position, and that definitely took stress off our plate.”
Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel