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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2007

Bluffton aims to help ease campus grief


BLUFFTON, Ohio - Shaken by the death of four classmates in a tragic bus crash, most Bluffton University students left for spring break by Saturday afternoon. Yesterday, faculty and staff began talking about what happens when they return.

At a lunch meeting, Bluffton University President James Harder and other university officials who traveled to Atlanta after the crash spoke to employees about efforts made to support the baseball team and their families.

Grief counselors, many of whom met with students last week, also were available to talk with staff members. University spokesman Robin Bowlus said an additional session is planned for Monday, during which faculty will be trained to identify and respond to signs of students struggling with the deaths.

"We will have been on campus living though this for a week, and the students will return in a week and will be in a different point in the grieving process," Ms. Bowlus said.

David Betts of Bryan; Scott Harmon and Tyler Williams, both of Lima, Ohio, and Cody Holp of Arcanum, Ohio died in the early morning crash on

I-75 in Atlanta. Busdriver Jerome Niemeyer, 65, and his wife, Jean, 61, of Columbus Grove, also were killed.

Funeral arrangements for three of the students were announced yesterday.

Visitation for Mr. Harmon will be from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home, 920 North Cable Rd., Lima, with the funeral at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Elida High School fieldhouse, 101 East North St., Elida.

Visitation for Mr. Holp will be from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Lewisburg United Methodist Church in Lewisburg, Ohio, with the funeral at 1 p.m. Thursday at the church.

Visitation for Mr. Williams will be from noon to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Philippian Missionary Baptist Church, 190 East Eighth St., Lima, where the family will be present from 6 to 8 p.m. Services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at the church.

Hartman Sons Funeral Home in Columbus Grove is handling arrangements for the Niemeyers. Visitation for the couple is today from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the funeral home, 10879 State Rt. 12. Their funeral is set for 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Anthony Catholic Church, 512 West Sycamore St., Columbus Grove.

Ms. Bowlus said the university was waiting for funeral arrangements to be finalized for David Betts before scheduling a campus memorial service. She expects it to be held next week after students are back on campus, although the time has not been decided.

"We're struggling with that wondering if parents of our students are going to want to come and be with their students," she said. "We are talking about maybe doing it in the evening."

A decision about the baseball team's season also is expected to be made soon.

Ms. Bowlus said the games that had been scheduled in Florida were season games, not simply spring training, and the team's first game back in Ohio was set for March 13.

"Our athletic director will be in conversation with the NCAA and our conference, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference," she said.

In the aftermath of the crash, the last day of classes before spring break was immediately canceled and a number of university-sponsored trips were called off as well, including a choir tour through Virginia, Pennyslvania, and Ohio; a Habitat for Humanity trip to Jacksonville, Fla., the women's softball trip to Florida, and a student volunteer project in Louisiana sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee.

While the residence halls are closed for spring break, Ms. Bowlus added that the residence life office will be working on a case-by-case basis with out-of-state and other "long-distance" students who want to attend any of the private memorial services this week and need a place to stay.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:


or 419-353-5972.

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