Tuesday, January 29, 2002

School mourns teacher

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — Two large banners hung outside Room 146 at Talawanda High School on Monday. “Remembering ... We miss you Ms. O ... ” read one banner put up to honor Sarah Oberhauser, a popular chemistry teacher who was killed Saturday in an automobile accident at Ohio 73 and Ohio 177.

        The other banner simply stated: “Memories.”

        Just outside the door, a memorial table containing a box of Kleenex, roses and bouquets was set up. A third banner went up outside the cafeteria.

  • Visitation: 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. today at Bope-Thomas Funeral Home in Perry County.
  • Service: 11 a.m. Wednesday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Somerset, with burial following at St. Joseph's Cemetery.
  • School memorial service: 2 p.m. Thursday, Talawanda High School.
  • Community memorial service: 5:30 p.m. Friday, Faith Lutheran Church, 420 S. Campus Ave., Oxford.
        There, passing students paused, wrote their thoughts, or simply stopped to reflect about the life of a favored teacher. By day's end, it was overflowing as students added flowers and a large collage. Outside, the flag was at half-staff. Around its base lay additional flowers and mementos.

        Several tables at the media center were set up with pens and pencils and 5-by-7 sheets of paper. There, students could work individually or collaboratively to make scrapbook pages that will be compiled into a book and presented to Ms. Oberhauser's children and parents at week's end. Green ribbons and pins were set out for students to wear.

        "Everyone's a little shaken by it,” said senior Betsy Gates, who saw the crash but didn't know Ms. Oberhauser was involved until a teacher called her Saturday afternoon. “You really feel the absence when you're by her room. Everyone's sad.”

        Traffic investigators Monday were conducting interviews and examining the wreckage, said Monte Mayer, Butler County Sheriff's spokesman. Investigators were still trying to determine which driver was at fault.

        Counselors from the high school and Miami University joined clergy and the school psychologist to help students, faculty or staff as they grieved.

        Principal Dan Milz said students were asked to write down their ideas to memorialize Ms. Ober hauser, such as planting a tree or setting up a scholarship fund. A decision will be made over the next week or two.

        At the start of school, students met for 15 minutes in their small “Contact” groups where they talked about what happened after Mr. Milz spoke over the school's public address system and called for a moment of remembrance. Students are assigned to a 15-member Contact support group their freshman year and remain together with the same teacher until they graduate.

        “Every teacher addressed what happened,” said Marianne Marconi, Talawanda's director of guidance. “Saturday, we had counselors call all the students in Ms. Oberhauser's classes this semester and last. We tried to avoid kids walking into school today and finding out. We did everything we could to prepare the students for the shock.”

        A group of 15 people from the school will travel to Ms. Oberhau ser's hometown of Somerset, in Perry County, for Wednesday's funeral.

        Meanwhile, students at College Corner Union School on the Ohio-Indiana border were making notes for Ms. Oberhauser's daughter, Megan VanWinkle, 10, a fourth-grader, and son Drew VanWinkle, 7, a second-grader at the 230-pupil school.

        Principal Lynn Thomas said counselors would be available Thursday and Friday when Megan and Drew are expected to return to school.


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