Friday, May 03, 2002

Covington Catholic grieves for 2001 alum

Villa Hills native dies in UK dorm fall

By Ray Schaefer, Enquirer contributor
and Tom O'Neill, The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PARK HILLS — Covington Catholic High School mourned its 2001 prom king Thursday — the day he was expected to return for the summer from his first year at college.

Photos of Jeff Pfetzer were displayed in the Covington Catholic gym during today's service. In background are students Jonathan Blazejewski and Ryan Borowski, who spoke at the service.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Jeff Pfetzer, 19, of Villa Hills, and another man, Matthew Rzepka, 22, of Bowling Green, Ky., died early Thursday after crashing through a third-story window while wrestling in an open lounge area of a University of Kentucky dormitory.

        The window was a sealed, double-pane window, roughly 3 feet wide and 8 feet tall.

        “They smacked against a plate-glass window, the window gave out and the two fell three stories to the ground,” said UK spokeswoman Mary Margaret Colliver.

        It occurred as final exam week drew to a close and the school prepared to celebrate its 135th commencement on Saturday.

Matt Finke (right) hugs Landon Hanser in the entrance to CovCath's gym before the service for their friend.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        At a prayer service in Covington Catholic's gym Thursday afternoon, students, teachers and coaches recalled Mr. Pfetzer. At UK, he was studying finance.

        He played varsity soccer at Covington Catholic during the 1998-2000 seasons.

        Senior Landon Hanser, 19, is a CovCath soccer player who had known Mr. Pfetzer since the two were 10-year-olds.

        “(He was) very funny, very witty,” Mr. Hanser said. “He always had a smile.”

        As Father Brian Wigger, parochial vicar at St. Agnes Church of Fort Wright and a 1986 CovCath alum, reminded students and staff that “Jesus has not abandoned us. He never has. He never will,” the audience saw a collage of team photos and pictures of their “True Colonel” from past soccer seasons and the 2001 prom.

Landon Hanser (right) prays with classmates.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Mr. Pfetzer was one of three sons of Charles and Sally Pfetzer to attend the school. Chris is a 1997 alum and Doug is a junior.

        “Every single practice he was smiling,” said Blake Gehring, a CovCath senior soccer player. “That's the one thing I remember about him.”

        Al Hertsenberg, the school's assistant soccer coach, head tennis coach and director of the religion department, talked about Mr. Pfetzer's diligence in class.

        “He worked hard from the first week of school to the last week of school,” Mr. Hertsenberg said.

Next to a coroner's van, University of Kentucky students gather under the window this morning to talk about the accident.
(AP photo)
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        “If you had Jeff Pfetzers in every classroom, you'd be paying me too much to do what I do. It'd be too easy.”

        Principal Jack Kennevan said Mr. Pfetzer was supposed to come home to Villa Hills on Thursday after finishing finals Wednesday.

        CovCath head soccer coach John Horton spoke of Mr. Pfetzer's quiet side.

        “Around me, he was respectful around authority, which is what you want as a coach,” Mr. Horton said.

        “I've seen this too many times,” Mr. Horton said. “These kids are being snatched away in the best years of their lives, when they have their lives in front of them.”

   Visitation is 3-6 p.m. Sunday at Swindler & Currin Funeral Home, Latonia.
   A Mass will be celebrated noon Monday at St. Joseph Church, Crescent Springs. Interment will follow at 2:45 p.m. at St. Mary's Cemetery, Fort Mitchell.
   Memorials: Covington Catholic Building Fund or Covington Catholic Soccer Fund, 1600 Dixie Highway, Park Hills, Ky. 41011.
        Visitation for Mr. Pfetzer will be 3-6 p.m. Sunday at Swindler and Currin Funeral Home in Latonia. Mass will be celebrated noon Monday at St. Joseph Church in Crescent Springs, with interment at 2:45 p.m. at St. Mary's Cemetery in Fort Mitchell.

        Mr. Rzepka, 22, attended UK from in 1997-98. He was visiting his brother at the 23-story Kirwan Tower when the accident occurred at 2:30 a.m.

        University of Kentucky Police spokesman Sgt. Greg Hall said it was too early to release a definitive account but “it seems to be a tragic accident.”

        Ms. Colliver said alcohol was found in the lounge, but officials do not know if the two young men were drinking. She said six to eight fellow students were in the lounge area when the two fell. There were several people in the courtyard below.

        Ms. Colliver said the university investigation continues, but “we think it was friendly horseplay.”

        University of Kentucky President Lee Todd arrived at the scene before 3 a.m. with his wife, Patsy, to comfort grieving students.

        “As a parent, you dread that phone call at 2:30 in the morning like the one I got,” he said. “My heart just goes out to those two families.”

        The Associated Press contributed.


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