Too soon gone: Family of Dylan Fulton reflects on rodeo memories, Cap’n Crunch, more
A South Dakota family said goodbye to their son over the weekend far sooner than they ever had planned. Dylan Fulton, 20, died Sept. 12 at his fraternity house at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus, where he had been working toward an animal science degree.
Dylan graduated high school in Miller, South Dakota, as co-valedictorian in 2017. He is survived by his parents, Paul and Kayleen, older brother Wyatt, and younger sisters Mackayln and Jenna.
"Three years ago, on the 23rd of this month, friends of ours lost their son to meningitis," Kayleen said. "We remember going up there and thinking, how could they ever go through it? You have to. We have three other very wonderful children. We can't not live for them, and not live life and love. They are just as wonderful as our Dylan."
Dylan grew up on his family's ranch south of St. Lawrence, South Dakota, where he worked with his dad, uncle, siblings, cousins, and grandparents and cared for numerous animals, including a flock of chickens.
"He had these chickens. He was funny about it; he didn't want to be broadcasting that he had these chickens. He didn't feel it was manly," Kayleen said of her son. "He gave me, his grandmas, and Aunt Susan eggs. He was a caretaker; he loved any kind of animal."
At college, he was vice noble ruler of scholarships at Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR), an agriculture fraternity, Sheep Barn co-manager and the Gopher Dairy Barn co-junior manager at the Minnesota State Fair. As in high school, he also maintained a 4.0 GPA landing him a spot on the Dean's List both semesters of college.
"He was in almost anything in school. We did not push him to be in them, he just did it," Dylan's mom said. "He was in the play, and he was so good. He was on the high school student council. Some things he just did, and we didn't know about."
Dylan was a boisterous character, sometimes seen in costume, but always ready to pump up the crowd at games and events. In high school, Dylan was an officer in FFA both locally and in the district. He won numerous local, district, and state FFA competitions and degrees throughout high school. He and his team qualified for nationals in Farm Business Management and placed second individually at the South Dakota Convention. He was also in cross country, track, basketball, FCCLA, honor roll, national honor society, served as a class officer, and competed in 4-H and high school rodeo competing in cutting, calf-roping, team roping, and bulldogging with his dad as his hazer.
At the regional rodeo at Fort Pierre Dylan's senior year, his family was pretty confident that Dylan had broken his nose while bulldogging, but they didn't take him to the hospital right away.
"We told him that his Uncle Brian [Fulton] had broken his nose, and it was crooked," Kayleen said. "Later I took him to the ER; they X-rayed it, it looked straight, so they taped it up, and we headed back to the rodeo so he could team rope."
The next day, Paul and Kayleen left the decision up to Dylan whether he wanted to bulldog.
"He said, 'Yeah, I'm going to bulldog!' and I think he won it that day," Kayleen said. "He toughed it out and competed at the state high school finals with a broken nose and black eyes."
Dylan was a notoriously picky eater, often reaching for the box of Captain Crunch he carefully stashed in the pantry or the homemade pudding, Grandma's recipe, that he would make and then promptly hide. At college, two neighboring sororities would often find Dylan to be a guest, depending on what they were eating that night.
"He would find out what they were having, and if it was better than they were having at AGR, he would go eat with the girls," his mom said, giggling.
Prior to the loss of their second child, the Fultons had been through their share of hardships, including the loss of Paul's brother Brian, cancer treatments for Kayleen last winter, and knee surgery for the youngest daughter, Jenna, but Kayleen would take any of that over the pain in her heart now.
"This is so much worse," she said. "We talked to our kids, they're all wonderful kids, and I don't want them to ever think they're any less than Dylan. You don't love one less at all. Yeah, we're sad, but we can't dwell on it because that's not how Dylan would want us to live."
This past spring, Dylan was considering traveling abroad in England in May, however, Kayleen reminded him his sister Mackayln was graduating from high school. Dylan consulted his Uncle Neil Fulton who also encouraged him to consider going another time.
"It was his choice to wait, and I'm glad he did," Kayleen said. "That would have been that many less weeks we would have had with him."
The Fultons' last photo as a complete family was taken at Mackayln's graduation.
While Paul and Kayleen had big dreams for their son, as they do all their children, their biggest hope is that he was happy.
"He was very talented. We told him, 'Dylan, you can do anything.' We always just wanted him to be happy with whatever he chose in life," Kayleen said. "I truly believe he was happy and enjoying every minute of every day no matter what he was doing. I'm sure he had lots of stress in his life, trying to decide what to do and get everything done to his standards, but he always seemed to handle it."
The Fultons have appreciated the outpouring of love from the community, including so many at the funeral who told Paul and Kayleen that Dylan was their best friend, knowing they really were all his friends. They daily pray for the safety of their children.
"It's something you do not wish upon anyone," Kayleen said. "People have come through our doors—there are too many—who have lost a child, whether to suicide or something else. There are so many people who have that look in their eye, because they know it could happen to them."