On Monday, March 21, 2016, Ethan James McKinney lost his courageous 15-month battle with bone cancer.
He passed peacefully at home in the embrace of his family.
Ethan was born on December 15, 2000 in Stockton, CA to Matthew and Rika McKinney.
The family moved to Gardnerville, Nev., in October 2001 after the passing of Ethan’s godfather, Mark Costa. Ethan grew up on the Bently Ranch with his parents and two sisters, helping his dad with the cows and the hay though he always loved tractors more than horses.
He went to school at St. Gall Pre-School and later attended Minden Elementary School through second grade. Ethan was homeschooled through middle school where he enjoyed co-op classes and participated in science fairs and was a member of the Lego robotics team. For high school, Ethan was proud to attend Stanford University’s Online High School. Ethan was always very active in the community, especially in Douglas County 4-H where he was a member of the Carson Valley Shepherds, Science Club, Speaking Club, Shooting Sports and Teen Leadership. Ethan and his sisters owned a successful breeding sheep flock and won many champion ribbons. Ethan could always be relied upon to volunteer to be a presenter for Ag in the Classroom or for livestock demonstrations for 4-H Cloverbuds.
He also participated in the historical society’s Young Chautauqua program and enjoys performing historical characters like Paul Revere and Theodore Roosevelt for local elementary groups. Ethan began playing violin at age six and later began playing the double bass where he was honored to perform with the Carson Valley Sinfonia, the Carson Valley Pops, and the Carson City Symphony. All of these activities, however, paled in comparison to Ethan’s love of the theatre. After his first ever rehearsal at the age on 10, Ethan proudly announced, “I have found my people.”
Ethan loved being on stage with his friends with the Youth Theatre of Carson City, the Carson Valley Young Thespians, and with the D.G. Menchetti Young Shakespeare Program. Theater was Ethan’s “team sport” and he loved performing not for the spotlight, but for the process—all of the cast members had to come together and feed off of each other and everyone had their part to play no matter how big or small. He loved to hear the audience laugh.
He loved to laugh. He wanted us to laugh with him.
Ethan spent 15 months battling cancer and he faced that battle with the same courage and strength that he lived his life. He spent the year charming the nurses and joking with his doctors. Ethan told them that if he lost his positive attitude and sense of humor than cancer had already won. Not content to lay around, Ethan passed the time in the hospital by starting his own charity called Ethan’s Little Library to collect new storybooks for other kids at the hospital. With the help of caring hospital staff, Ethan employed his acting skills to record story times to be played on the hospital’s TV channel.
He enjoyed reading stories to the little kids and giving them free storybooks. He also played his bass in the hospital and gave mini concerts for the other kids.
Ethan is survived by his father and mother, sisters Leah(17)and Lillie(12), grandparents Jim and Lee McKinney of Gardnerville, Carol Counter of Baldwin City, KS, and Rick and Rita Nitschke of Fresno, CA, his uncle and aunt Seth and Mica Nitschke of Turlock, CA and cousins Henry, Elle,and Charlotte as well as many great-aunts and great-uncles and his godmother Erin Costa.
A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, April 2nd at 11:00am at St. Gall Catholic Church, 1343 Centerville Lane, Gardnerville,NV. Ethan did not want a sad and stuffy funeral and requested that his friends, family and well-wishers wear costumes —if you don’t have one then be creative! A gathering will follow in St. Gall’s Pastoral Center and will include fellowship, food, ice cream and a screening of Ethan’s favorite movie, The LEGO Movie. In lieu of flowers, Ethan would like you to donate to the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation or Children’s Hospital Oakland Foundation,c/o Ethan’s Little Library.