OREM — For the Saunders family, Alex Marra was more than a family friend. They considered him kin.
When the Saunders learned Marra, who lived in Orem, died Saturday after being trapped in an avalanche near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, they were attempting to come to grips with the loss of a man they considered a "pseudo son" and "pseudo brother."
"He's in a better place but that doesn't always make it easy," said Seth Saunders on Sunday.
The Marra and Saunders families met in Bainbridge, Ohio, more than three decades ago and became fast friends.
Their children went to school together, each graduating from Kenston High School. The families vacationed together on the beaches of North Carolina, he said.
Their sons bonded over nearly daily basketball games and just hanging out.
"We were the posse," Saunders said.
Alex Marra was the youngest of five siblings and Shaaron Saunders, Seth Saunders' mother, was "basically in the hospital room at the birth. She's been in every chapter of his life," Saunders said.
She was the first of the Saunders family to learn of his death when the Marras' stake president called from Ohio to deliver the news.
Earlier in the week, Shaaron Saunders went out to dinner with Marra, which they did regularly. Marra considered her his Utah mom and he was a "pseudo son," Saunders said.
"He was just a special person in my mom's life and vice versa. They were just eternal friends, for sure," he said.
The Saunders, who had moved to Ohio from American Fork, returned to Utah in 1996, but the families remained close.
Marra moved to Utah in 2006 and left on a mission for The Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a short time later. After serving his mission in Colorado Springs, he returned to Utah and graduated from Utah Valley University.
Marra enjoyed skiing and other outdoor sports and was a "diehard Cleveland sports fan," who cheered on the Indians, Cavaliers and the Browns, Saunders said.
"He's the adventurous one. He lived life to its fullest," Saunders said.
Yet, the manner of Marra's death was bewildering, he said, because he doubted Marra would intentionally ski out of bounds given the conditions.
"They must have missed a turn or something. It was sad how it happened," he said.
According to Teton County Wyoming Search and Rescue, Marra was caught in Rock Springs Canyon late Saturday morning. The call for help came around 11:30 a.m. and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski patrol responded.
Marra was with one ski partner who was not injured, officials said.
According to a statement from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the avalanche occurred in an area south of the resort.
"We express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the victim. With more snow on the way, this incident reminds skiers and riders to be prepared, and understand the hazards and risks that exist in the backcountry," the statement said.2 comments on this story
Saunders said his family is attempting to process the weekend's events. The 20th anniversary of the death of his father, Vernon Delano Saunders, was on Sunday, which is weighing on his family's minds as well.
But the Saunders and the Marra families will rely on faith and fond memories to shoulder them through the difficult days ahead, Saunders said.
He expressed his feelings in a Facebook post: "I love this family with all of my heart. They were an extension of our family. The heavens received an amazing angel today. I love you Alex. Thanks for bringing joy and excitement to this world. Until we meet again brother."