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Friends and family remember the lives of two 21-year-old best friends who drowned in Lake Winnebago

Posted at 5:32 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 00:21:47-04

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (NBC 26) -- Just one week after two best friends, Dakota Goldapske and Michael Gohde, both 21, passed away in Lake Winnebago when their canoe capsized amid harsh conditions, the Fond du Lac community looks back on the lives of the two men.

Samantha Giese, the mother of Goldapske's 2-year-old son, Dartanian, says the lifelong comrades went out on the water to fish on Monday night. Giese was working in Texas when the incident occurred.

"The whole time I was gone, him [Goldapske] and Michael [Gohde] spent every day together to the point where Michael moved in," Giese said about the canoers she grew up with. "It’s really hard to still grasp this because he was like my right hand for everything. Dakota, if I ever needed anything, he was always a call away and anything he was doing he would drop."

The missing bodies of Goldapske and Gohde were recovered later last week, according to the Fond du Lac County Sheriff. Giese's son was living with Goldapske in Fond du Lac.

"Michael, my son knew him as Uncle Gohde, well 'Go Go," Giese said. "When I was gone, Michael obviously was there with Dakota and they always were with Dartanian like doing stuff with him. They’d go to Cabela’s."

Giese says she will miss having Goldapske as the father of her child.

"I’m gonna have to really step up my game because I’m gonna have to play mom and dad," she said. "My son was living with Dakota at his house while I was away. But now I’m gonna have to get us like an apartment. I’m gonna have to learn to really be on my own."

One close family friend says Goldapske left a mark on the community.

Dakota's mom, Barbara, she would just like everybody to know how big of a heart he was and how great of a kid he was and how sad she is," Darren Goodpaster, who worked with Goldapske, said.

Giese, ex-fiancee of Goldapske, says she'll keep the memories of the two best friends alive for her young baby.

"One thing I promised Dakota and he promised me was that Dartanian would always know him as 'Dada' and no one would ever take his spot," Giese said. "And that was a promise that I’m going to keep... I’m going to try my best to say [to my son] 'yep, they’re fishing. They’re fishing in heaven.' That’s where they are, until he’s [Dartanian] old enough to grasp the concept."

Gohde's close friend and neighbor, Cheyanna Westphal, says she was 'super close' with the two companions.

"We grew up with the mindset that once daylight hit, it was time to gather up everyone and spend all day with each other until the street lights came on," Westphal said.

Westphal says she and Gohde stayed close to each other when they graduated from Horace Mann High School in North Fond du Lac.

"Micheal would normally text me at 1 a.m. and ask if I was awake," she said. "Usually, I would be and he would ask if my dog PJ and I could go outside and meet him at 2 a.m. seeing that he lived just four houses down from me. I would say 'yes.'"

Gohde's funeral took place this past Saturday while Goldapske's is set for Monday evening.

"Mike would be waiting outside my house and we would walk down to the park and just sit on top of the hill and stargaze just talking about anything and everything," Westphal said. "Mike wouldn't leave or let me leave until we were either laughing like crazy or he made sure everything was better. He was an amazing caring guy."

GoFundMe accounts have been set up for both victim's families to cover further costs: Funeral and expenses for Dakota John Goldapske, Michael Gohde funeral and memorial expenses.