Lessons of Loss

Debbi Walter and Don Kiefer experienced the nightmare that no one should ever experience: losing a child.
Last summer, Mrs. Walter’s son Brendan, died in a car crash weeks after graduating high school. In 2006, Mr. Kiefer’s son Christopher, was killed in a crash that robbed him of his senior year in high school.
“My life will never be the same in so many ways,” said Debbi Walter, Brendan’s mother.
“As a parent, you think of all the hopes and dreams you had for your child, and they all just vanished that night,” said Chris’s father, Don.
Brendan died July 19 in a tragic car accident. Brendan was a 2014 graduate from Southmoreland. He was part of the boys soccer team and loved hunting, fishing, spending time at the family cabin and playing with his dog Molly.
“Everyone knew ‘B’ because he was always happy, and you would never see him in a bad mood or with a frown on his face,” said Mrs. Walter. She added that Brendan “made people appreciate him” because of his mood.
At Brendan’s funeral dinner, one of his coaches said,” When you have standing room only at a funeral and they are selling t-shirts (in Walter’s memory) out of the trunk of a car in the parking lot at the dinner, you have made a huge impact in lives around.”
“When he was little we always told him he had a million dollar smile,” said Mrs. Walter.
The family has set up a scholarship fund to give scholarships to a senior member of the boys soccer team and a senior hockey player from Inferno Hockey. There is an annual golf outing held at Timber Ridge and a hockey tournament at Hot Shots Indoor Sports Arena.
Christopher Kiefer was a senior at Southmoreland with the class of 2007. Chris passed away Nov. 16, 2006 in an automobile accident. He participated in track, cross-country, soccer, chorus, and many other activities.
Mr. Kiefer added that “Within the past two years, some of his classmates have gotten married or have had children. Chris will never experience that.
“He lost out on all the things he was going to do with his life,” Mr. Kiefer continued.
After high school, Chris planned on attending Dickinson College and was going to run cross-country.
“His smile and his sense of humor” is his father’s favorite memory of his son. “Chris loved mentoring kids and liked having fun.”
Mr. Kiefer offered a word of caution. “I wish that kids would realize that it can happen to them,” he said.
The year after Chris died there was a statistic that 300 teenagers die a month in car accidents. They put it in perspective by comparing the number to a whole jet liner filled with teenagers dying. “It really hit home for me,” said Mr. Kiefer.
In memory of Christopher they have a Dash Run in the summer to help raise money for the scholarship fund that they award several seniors on class day.
Grim Reaper day was held to remind students that their lives can change “in a blink of an eye” and that they can become, as this year’s theme stated, “just a memory to your loved ones, community, and school.”

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