The following is excerpted from a tribute found in the November 2, 2002 issue of the Block Island Times.

'Best friend to a lot of people'
By Hillary Ryan

He was one of the originals in a cast of many characters. From the first day of school he made us laugh with his jokes and outbursts. If you were having a bad day, Ian could change that, causing you to laugh until you cried, and smile until your face hurt. Whether he was reciting lines from movies, or debuting his own original creations, he caused those belly laughs that make you feel joy and pain all at once.

I can’t do justice to someone with such a great personality. I’m just trying to show how much he meant to me.

People were always drawn to his outgoing and welcoming disposition. I don’t think I can name one girl who didn’t have a crush on Ian Kortbek - I know I did, for about six years. He had the power to make you smile when you’d think you’d forgotten how. It’s the kind of gift many people wish they possessed.

We would get in trouble a lot in class for laughing. Well, mostly I would, for laughing at things he was saying or doing. This never made sense to me. Why am I getting in trouble for just being happy? Why would he get in trouble for making someone sing with laughter?

He was an athlete. Though he started some sports later than others, when he took the field or court he looked like he had been there all along. He brought his competitive nature to every game, and also pleased the crowd with his humor and skills. He was sure to give the crowd a little “French pastry” - only his schoolmates will understand the phrase - every game he played.

He would download about 200 songs a day. Mostly, they were songs we hadn’t heard of, but he was sure to spread the word, and by the next day one or another would be a unanimous hit within the school.

He was always online, talking with his summer friends and friends from the island. When I needed a good laugh because schoolwork was getting me down, I would simply sign on, send him a warm greeting, and wait for what he had in store for me.

He started his countdown to summer in September. It was his favorite time of year, and he let everyone know it. I can still hear him asking me, “Hill, are you ready for summer? It’s so close!” while we would be sitting in a snowdrift in the middle of January. He should have been a comedian; he should have been a professional skater. He should have been a movie star or producer; he should have been a millionaire. With all of his talents, Ian should have been a lot of things. But most of all, he should still be with us today.

It is indescribable, the pain that I felt when I heard this heartbreaking news. I couldn’t imagine going back to Block Island and him not being there, skating in the boat parking lot or at the post office; not running into him randomly and hearing the latest catch phrase he had introduced to the island.

Everyone from the graduating class of 2002 has lost a part of themselves; something that had always been there, and that cannot be replaced.

He was one of my best friends. He was a best friend to a lot of people. He was a great person, and no one will ever be able to forget him. He will live on inside of me, and in everyone who knew him well. I will see him every time I watch a funny movie, and hear him every time I download a new song. I will never forget Ian.

View The full tribute here (PDF)


Memorial service set for Ian Kortbek


The following was printed in the November 2, 2002 edition of the Block Island Times.

A memorial service will be held Sunday morning, Nov. 3, for Ian Kortbek, who died following an accident on Corn Neck Road late Friday, Oct. 25.

The service is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the site of the future skateboard park in Ball-O'Brien Park. Kortbek, 18, a 2002 graduate of Block Island High School, was instrumental in organizing the young people of Block Island and arousing community interest in establishing a skate park.

Following the service, friends may gather at the Narragansett Inn at 11 a.m. Cynthia Rabey, Kortbek's mother, asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Ian Kortbek Memorial Fund for the Block Island Skate Park, care of Washinton Trust Co., P.O. Box 217, Block Island, RI. 02807.

Plans are underway to name the skate park in his honor.

Kortbek passed away late Wednesday. His organs were donated, "a gift of life to people in need," his mother said.

Kortbek sustained serious head injuries in the accident that occurred when a 17-year-old Block Island resident driving a car full of passengers tried to pass another vehicle and lost control last Friday, Oct. 25.

Ian Kortbek was riding in the front passenger seat. The driver and one other passenger were treated for minor injuries; two other passengers were unhurt, police said. All the occupants except Kortbek are students at Block Island School.

Police Chief William McCombe said the car veered off Corn Neck Road just north of Beach Avenue at about 10:30 p.m. The left front side of the care hit a utility pole, then the car spun and overturned, according to McCombe.

Kortbek was taken from the scene to the airport and flown by helicopter to the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Conn., where he was placed on life support until he died.

Kortbek, who was riding in the front passenger seat, was not wearing his seat belt, McCombe said. The driver and one of the other juveniles were, he added.

McCombe said a juvenile came to the police station at 10:43 p.m. to report the accident; the police, fire and rescue squad responded, he said, and Dr. Peter Baute from the Medical Center was at the scene.

They found that the able-bodied occupants had gotten out of the car and had pulled Kortbek out, he said.

McCombe said the accident happened as the car was attempting to pass another vehicle on a slight curve. His preliminary judgment was that the cause of the accident was "excessive speed, driver inexperience and poor judgment."

The car, a 1986 Plymouth Aries, was registered to Kortbek's mother, the chief said.

Police gave the driver a breathalyzer test and "it came up all zeroes," McCombe said.

"They were just hanging out on a Friday night and decided to go for a ride," McCombe said. "They told me that Ian said he'd been drinking and asked one of the boys to drive."

A three-person accident reconstruction team from the Narragansett Police Department came to the island Tuesday to study the incident. "They have the capacity to judge the actual speed from the terrain, the skid marks and the car damage," McCombe said. The Narragansett Police Department offers the service as a form of mutual assistance, the chief explained.

McCombe will combine the team's report with his own department's findings and forward the complete report to the state attorney general's office, which will consider whether to file charges against the driver, he said.

Skate park memorial

Kortbek and Eddie Stover started pushing the idea of a skateboard park in the spring of 2000, appearing before town boards and community organizations to plead their case. Gradually they garnered support; the Lions Club took it up as a club project; money was raised and the Ball-O'Brien Park was identified as the best site.

The preliminary studies and engineering work have been completed and the only remaining procedural barrier is to obtain a special use permit. The Zoning Board opened a hearing on the application at its meeting Monday and took testimony from a number of youths, but did not have time to complete the hearing and adjourned it to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5.

On hearing of Kortbek's accident, Stover, now a sophomore at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., e-mailed friends and proposed that the skate park be named in Kortbek's honor, according to Mary Stover, Eddie's mother. The idea met instant acceptance, she said, and a request to the Town Council to that effect is planned.

"I think it would be entirely appropriate if the young people were to install a plaque to be dedicated to his memory," said Ray Torrey, who has headed the skate park project for the Lions Club.

Kortbek was a member of title-winning basketball and soccer teams at the school. "What I noticed about Ian was that the younger children loved him; he would spend a lot of time with them," said Scott Comings of The Nature Conservancy, assistant basketball coach and instructor in environmental studies.

Kortbek's father, Jens, is a Danish citizen and businessman. Young Kortbek had planned to join his father in Denmark this fall, Stover said.