To the Gruels, the G overlooking Pleasant Grove has always been more than just a G.
“We always joked it stood for Gruel, ever since our kids were born,” said Jamee Gruel.
They can see the letter from their front yard, and also from where their son, Colby Gruel, is buried, in section G of the cemetery.
Tuesday, on what would have been Colby’s 18th birthday, the G stood for “Gruel” once again as the family hiked up with a group of more than 100 people to sing “Happy Birthday” to Colby and illuminate up the G with spotlights.
Colby, a student at Pleasant Grove High School, died in May after crashing a motorized scooter in a Provo church parking lot.
Jamee, Colby’s mother, said the G was lit up the night of the crash after the high school’s baseball team took home a state championship. The family hoped that the G would once again be lit up by the group, who carried up 15-pound spotlights to the letter.
The hike started as something Colby’s father, Brandon Gruel, was going to do on his own to honor his son. Then people started asking about what they were doing for Colby’s birthday, and asked if they could come along.
Brandon said Colby loved hiking in American Fork Canyon and watching sunsets, and would record a time-lapse video of sunsets whenever they were on vacation.
“He was always so fun and positive to be around,” Brandon Gruel said.
The Gruels said there were 900 people at Colby’s funeral, most of who were people they didn’t know. They said Colby had friends in every circle at the high school.
Brandon Gruel said he’s grateful for the community response that followed his son’s death.
“It has been amazing support from everyone around us,” he said.
Gabby Henry, a junior at Pleasant Grove High School, remembers Colby as a student who was always smiling, lived in the moment and who’d ask her to French braid his hair during class.
“He always had a positive attitude about everyone,” she said.
The hike had deeper meaning for her Tuesday.
“He’s here with us, I can already feel him,” Henry said.
Colby often went on hikes with his friends, whether it was in the nearby canyon, or in St. George, where he dubbed a mountain “Banana Peak” after throwing a banana peel off the summit.
Another time, he called a friend about a surprise.
“I come outside and there’s a stop sign in my backyard,” said Jaxon Burningham, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School.
Friends and family wrote messages to Colby on white and yellow balloons that were released, wiggling away into the air, at the start of the hike. The messages wished Colby a happy birthday and highlighted his infamous hugs and smile.
Even with a steep hike ahead of them, they were willing to do it in memory of Colby.
“He was a very good friend,” said Brayden Johnson, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School. “There’s not a lot of stuff we wouldn’t do for him.”