John Jones had maneuvered his way out of tight spots before he got stuck in Utah County's Nutty Putty cave Tuesday night.
He had explored many caves, including those around St. George, where he was born and raised, his family said in a written statement Thursday.
"John loves the outdoors and, along with his brothers, had a strong sense of adventure," said Dan Hunter, the family's bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reading from the statement. At his side stood John's father, Leon Jones. He appeared subdued and stricken.
"Thank you for your interest in supporting our family, and especially for your thoughts and prayers in John's predicament he was in," he said.
Jones was home in Stansbury Park for Thanksgiving from Charlottesville, Va., where he was a second-year medical student at the University of Virginia. He planned to become a pediatric cardiologist, and had "a masterful ability to relate to children," Hunter said.
He graduated from Dixie High School in St. George, where he played basketball and was senior class president, said friend Morgan Miles. He met his wife, Emily, at Brigham Young University. They married in 2006 and had a 14-month-old daughter, Elizabeth, who they called Lizzie. The couple recently found out Emily was pregnant, and were expecting a second child next June.
"John was a remarkable person who strived to experience every good thing in life and achieve excellence in every thing he did," Hunter said. He loved basketball, BYU sports and reading, and was active in his church leadership.
The family thanked the approximately 100 rescue workers from agencies up and down the Wasatch Front who worked to free Jones on Wednesday, especially the search and rescue leaders from Utah County.
"John's last 24-some hours were spent trapped in a dark, tight crevice deep within the Nutty Putty Cave," Hunter said. "We know he fought with all he had to persevere and not lose hope."
Jones also leaves behind his parents, four brothers, two sisters and 16 nieces and nephews.
"We'll never fully understand how or why it was John's time to leave us," Hunter said. "But we find comfort in knowing that he fulfilled his purpose here on Earth, and that we will be reunited with him again."
A memorial service for John Jones will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, at the LDS Church Stansbury Park Stake Center, 417 East Benson Road in Stansbury Park.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions to the Emily Jones Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo Bank or Universal Campus Credit Union.