Cover photo for Joel Kent Sevy's Obituary

Joel Kent Sevy

d. February 9, 2024

Our beloved son Joel Kent Sevy passed away on Friday, February 9, 2024, in the beautiful snow-covered mountains north of Beijing, China. He was surrounded by family and friends, enjoying an annual tradition of backpacking on his favorite trail for Lunar New Year’s Eve, when he was collecting firewood for the dinner campfire, lost his footing near an unseen cliff, and fell to his death. He died instantly, free of pain, despite valiant rescue attempts by his father and friends. We are forever indebted to those who carried us through that terrible night.

Joel was inseparable from his best friend and identical twin Leif. They survived a precarious early-term birth together under the loving care of medical staff at the University of Utah NICU, the beginning of many miracles throughout their lives. From then on, they faced every day of life together with a determination to make it the “best day ever.” Observing the closeness and inexpressible beauty of their brotherhood has been, and always will be, an eternal source of joy to us. As toddlers, they tumbled and played like baby pandas in our garden in Copenhagen, Denmark; as kindergarteners, they traipsed through the beaches and jungles with their Cub Scout den from the Taipei American School in Taiwan; and as middle-schoolers, they grew to be athletic young men who also bravely graced the stage as proud seventh graders at the International School of Beijing. Together they ran cross-country and track and field, sang in the choir and in the school musical, and vigorously recruited friends to the rugby team, with Joel being honored as the player of year. They always signed up for every club together and took classes together like Chinese, design, flag football, and woodworking. On weekends, they loved biking along the river to work on a fort they made out of driftwood, going out for Lanzhou noodles or Indian food, or to their homemade outdoor boxing gym with friends. Joel loved serving in our church with Leif as deacons, passing the sacrament and ministering to others, and was humbled to be called as the president of his teacher’s quorum just two weeks before his death. After spending much time in our nation’s capital, Joel and Leif also had a special admiration for the armed forces, and in particular the incredible young Marines serving at our U.S. Embassy in Beijing, with whom they loved going rock-climbing, visiting a local orphanage over the holidays, and leading an annual fun run for families of children with disabilities from all over Beijing. These same Marines we know, and love named Joel an honorary member of their detachment and flew a flag for him over the embassy, which accompanied his casket on the flight home this week from Beijing to Utah.

Joel protected and adored his little sister Paige. He brainstormed ideas and laughed at silly jokes with his older brother Asher. He shared favorite books and a love of family history with his sister Mayah. He spent every Sunday afternoon writing in his journal and searching for ancestors to connect to our family tree. One of his last journal entries included several wrinkled name cards that he taped in to save, wanting to remember our last family vacation together, a special trip to the Sydney Australia temple, to seal to our family our Australian ancestors.

We grieve the loss of Joel’s radiant light in our lives but rejoice in the knowledge that we will be reunited with him one day. He is loved and missed by his parents, Travis Mark and Lindsay Leininger Sevy; his siblings, Mayah, Asher, Leif, and Paige; his grandparents, Greg and Jackie Leininger of South Ogden and Kent and Carol Sevy of St. George, Utah; and by many, many wonderful aunts and uncles, cousins, teachers, and friends. 

We thank all of these beautiful people who blessed his life. Memorials for Joel were held previously in Beijing at our church and school. 

His funeral will be held on Saturday, June 29, 2024, at 11 a.m. at the Burch Creek Third Ward Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5161 South 1300 East, South Ogden, Utah. Friends may visit with family on Saturday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the church. 

We hold in our hearts the deepest gratitude for the first responders from the search and rescue teams, police and fire departments, doctors and nurses, and villagers of Huairou, who heroically recovered Joel’s body to return to our family. We would like to thank both the staff of the Babaoshan Funeral Home who have compassionately cared for both Joel and our family for many months, and of the Lindquist Mortuary, who graciously received Joel into their care upon our arrival. We also thank Ambassador Nicholas Burns and our friends with the U.S. Embassy, Beijing United Family Hospital and Rehabilitation Hospital, Mr. Daniel Rubenstein and the International School of Beijing community, and the hundreds and thousands of you around the world who have sustained and cared for our family these past five months as we navigated this tragedy and Travis’s recovery. 

In Joel’s memory, we welcome you to support the Ronald McDonald House of Salt Lake City, which kindly took us in for many months at the time of Joel’s birth, and the Combined Veterans Honor Guard of Weber and Davis Counties, Chapter 70 of the Retired Special Forces Association, the Major Brent Taylor Foundation, Utah National Guard and local law enforcement who honorably welcomed him home at the time of his death. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joel Kent Sevy, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, June 29, 2024

8:30 - 10:30 am (Mountain time)

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Funeral Service

Saturday, June 29, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Mountain time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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