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Students mourn fallen classmate

By Karen Wilkinson

Triplicate staff writer

School officials stressed the normalcy of grieving and encouraged students to talk to anyone — friends, parents, teachers and counselors — in light of freshman Josh Lacy's death as classes resumed Tuesday following the Martin Luther King holiday.

"It's really important to talk about what you're feeling," said Del Norte County School District counselor Rich England. "Sometimes (the grief) doesn't come out initially — it's pretty sad around here, though."

In addition to Del Norte High School's three counselors, England spent much of Friday and Tuesday at the school, where students learned through word-of-mouth and newspaper articles that Josh — a popular 15-year-old wrestler — was struck in a hit-and-run accident early Friday and died Saturday.

School administrators on Friday relayed news of the accident to teachers, who in turn told students.

No formal announcement was made of Josh's death when school resumed Tuesday, but word quickly spread and students created a large poster board card pasted with photos of Josh and inscribed with kind words.

Dave Boker, Del Norte High teacher and Josh's wrestling coach, said though school administrators haven't offered anything in writing to grieving students, the kids are the ones who "are picking up the ball."

Teachers, however, sent students to the counseling office and spoke in small groups about Josh's death.

"What do you do as a teacher?" Boker said. "You let them know they can come to me."

Students on Tuesday filtered in and out of the school library, where the life-size card lay on a table with pens for those who wished to leave a message.

Copies of a Tuesday newspaper article also lay nearby. As Jelly Ramirez, 14, read the story aloud, her voice shook and tears spilled from her friends' eyes.

Though Ariana Spalding, 14, didn't know Josh that long — they met at the beginning of the school year — she remembers how he just came up to her "like he knew me."

"He was really nice and really selfless," she said. "He cared about everybody even if they didn't care about him."

He also wanted to help others and made a point to do so, said Andrew Walker, who wrestled with Josh for two-and-a-half years.

"He pretty much made me a better wrestler," said Walker, 18. The two met when Walker was a sophomore and Josh, in eighth grade, came by the high school to work on his moves.

"He helped me out a lot — teaching moves, helping me with problems and he made me feel better," Walker said.

And Josh's enthusiasm was contagious, he said. "He always kept the team up, made us have positive thoughts and never let us crash down."

Natosha Boulby, 14, who knew Josh since sixth-grade, said she'll miss his personality the most.

"He was just a really great friend," she said. "It's just not gonna be the same without him."

The past few weeks have been difficult at the high school, said counselor Gwen Turner, as longtime teacher Ron Mulder died Dec. 22, 2006, from surgery complications.

"Some kids are still working through the grief of Mr. Mulder and now they're dealing with another death," Turner said. "It's just such a shock for all of us, we all need to take a moment and start processing the information."

Reactions such as anger, trouble sleeping and depression are all normal and parents can call and refer their child to the counseling office, Counselor Sally Roy said.

Though the California Highway Patrol has received many tips about the vehicle that struck Josh as he waited for the school bus on U.S. Hwy. 101, "nothing has panned out yet," spokesman Don Bloyd said.

Some students are not only sad, but angry at whoever isn't fessing up, Roy said.

"We need the whole community to be looking because if everyone's looking, we'll find him," she said.

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