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Jonathan Werner

Jonathan Werner (left) was in Hawaii to officiate a friend's wedding when he died in an apparent drowning.

A Lincoln man died Sunday after apparently drowning off a remote beach on Hawaii's Big Island.

Jonathan Werner was in Hawaii to officiate a friend’s wedding. His girlfriend was swimming with him Sunday morning and joined bystanders in performing CPR after they pulled him from the water at about 11:20 a.m.

Family members said a rescue helicopter took close to 30 minutes to arrive because of the remoteness of the beach, which local media said was located in the Waipio Valley region on the northeast side of the island. Rescue workers tried to resuscitate Werner on the helicopter, but were unsuccessful.

Werner, 38, was the son of former Lincoln City Councilman Terry Werner and his wife, Mary Werner.

“He was very funny, such a socially aware person,” Mary Werner said Monday. “He was hilarious, always had nicknames for everyone.”

Her son had become ordained online and was ready to perform the wedding ceremony Monday.

Instead, his friend Paul took his place, wearing the jacket Werner was supposed to wear.

His parents described Werner as a social activist and regular participant in marches and protests. He worked at the Nebraska Department of Labor, loved to read, was interested in pottery and was a beekeeper. He kept bees at his home and regularly tended to them in his garden.

He also enjoyed bicycling and walking — about 30,000 steps each day.

He was excited to visit Hawaii and witness the volcanic eruptions taking place on the island, his parents said.

“He was adventurous and often took chances,” Terry Werner said. “He had a lot of values.”

He's survived by his parents, girlfriend and three sisters. Funeral services are pending; the family is waiting until more people who knew Jonathan return from Hawaii.

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