By Sue Kiesewetter
and Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MIDDLETOWN - Salutatorian Keith Akers planned to talk about his class's future in his commencement speech Friday night.
But that was before an early Tuesday crash on a remote Tennessee road claimed the lives of two of his Bishop Fenwick High School buddies: seniors Barry Kilker and Kyle Babcock.
Kyle Babcock: Visitation, today, 5-8 p.m., at Hodapp Funeral Home, 8815 Cincinnati-Columbus Road; Mass of Christian burial, 10 a.m. Friday, St. Maximillian Kolbe Church, 5720 Hamilton-Mason Road.
Barry Kilker: Visitation, today, 5-7 p.m., at St. Francis DeSales Church, Ohio 48, Lebanon; funeral mass 1 p.m. Friday, at the church.
"Before, it was going to be a regular speech,'' said Akers, who is one of three salutatorians. "I'm going to make the speech revolve around them - our memories together, what kind of good people they were. Barry and Kyle were really good buddies of mine. Everybody knew them."
Kilker, of Lebanon, and Babcock, of West Chester Township, died after the open-top Jeep they were riding in went off a rural road north of Knoxville and flipped.
"There will be something special done to honor them (at graduation),'' said the Rev. Charles "Chuck"" Mentrup, principal of the 440-student Butler County high school. "Whatever the kids want to do, we will do.''
Even as the close-knit school community - parents, teachers, students and alumni - gathered Wednesday for a Mass that turned into a memorial to the boys, factors that may have contributed to the crash remained under investigation in Tennessee.
"There is nothing at this time to suggest drugs or alcohol were a factor,'' said Beth Denton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety. "Prosecutors have not made a decision if any charges would be filed against Fenwick senior Rob Kreke, who was driving. He and front-seat passenger Pete Rouster, also a Fenwick senior, suffered minor injuries.
Kreke was convicted last month of speeding, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety. He was also involved in an accident in 2002. Details were not available in either case Wednesday.
Mentrup said graduation practice will go on as scheduled this morning; the girls' softball team will play its regional final game in the afternoon. Visitations for Babcock and Kilker are tonight.
On Friday, Babcock's funeral will be held in the morning, Kilker's in the afternoon. Baccalaureate Mass is set for 6 p.m. with graduation at 7:30 p.m. in Finkelman Auditorium on Miami University's Middletown campus.
A classmate of the two crash victims, Julie Minogue, 19, recalled her boyfriend's 2003 Fenwick graduation.
"I went to his graduation, and there were more tears of joy, happiness. I think our graduation will be different. It's going to be like there's a hole, something missing, in us."
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