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Published: Thursday, 10/23/2008

Grief weighs heavily on boy's family in fatal Oregon bus accident

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
'There's nothing worse than the pain of losing a son,' says Louis Takacs, with his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Ashlyn. 'There's nothing worse than the pain of losing a son,' says Louis Takacs, with his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Ashlyn.
JETTA FRASER / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Austin Austin
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

A week after their 11-year-old son was killed when he was run over by a school bus in Oregon, Austin Takacs' parents still cannot bear to talk about that fateful day, even between themselves.

His mother, Nancy Takacs, sleeps little and eats even less.

His father, Louis Takacs, talks animatedly, but his tired, swollen eyes betray an unmistakable sorrow.

"We're numb. We're in a daze," Mr Takacs said, as he sat with his wife and their 9-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, in the family's living room, photos of a smiling Austin on the walls.

"There's nothing worse than the pain of losing a son," he said.

But they find some comfort in the fact that part of him lives on because some of his organs were donated for others in need.

And as they struggle to come to terms with their grief, Mr. Takacs said he and his wife also have found comfort in the support of family, friends, and strangers.

Stacks of cards expressing sympathy arrive every day in the mail from as far away as Tennessee and California; their garage is filled with flowers given to them by neighbors, many of whom they had never even met; students, parents, and teachers from Oregon schools arrive daily bearing cooked meals and cakes.

At Austin's funeral Monday, his entire football team from Eisenhower Middle School was there as well as Oregon city officials and even state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), the Takacses said.

"We want to give our thanks to everybody," Mr. Takacs said. "The support system we've had is just incredible."

Austin, a sixth grader at Eisenhower, died Oct. 15 after he was struck by the rear tires of a school bus at Cardinal Bay Drive and Warner Way, just a couple of blocks from his house.

Austin had been running to catch the bus as it pulled away from the curb, when he tripped on his book bag and fell into the street, authorities said.

His mother, who drove Austin to the bus stop, witnessed the accident.

"I saw what happened to my son," said Mrs. Takacs, her eyes weary and filled with tears as she sat curled between her husband and daughter on the couch.

"It was the most horrible day of my life."

Oregon police are still investigating the accident.

The bus driver, Rita Grivanos, 67, has worked for Oregon schools since 1988 and consis-tently received high marks in her performance evaluations.

Ms. Grivanos has not returned to work since the accident, but Oregon Schools Superintendent Mike Zalar said she would resume work in the next week or two.

He said she would spend some time riding in the school buses before driving them again.

Mr. Zalar said he didn't foresee any changes in school transportation policies because of the accident.

"Our understanding is that this was an accident," Mr. Zalar said. "There wasn't any cause on our part that contributed."

Ms. Grivanos attended Austin's funeral, Mr. Takacs said, but the family has not spoken to her since the accident.

He and his wife said they do not want to blame anyone for their son's death.

"It's not fair right now to put blame on anything or anybody," Mr. Takacs said. "Our main focus is getting through this."

According to the police report of the incident, some of the students on the bus called out to Ms. Grivanos that Austin was next to the bus as she pulled away, but she may not have understood them above the noise.

Ms. Grivanos did not wish to comment yesterday.

For now, the Takacs family still can smile, even laugh, when they remember the good times they spent with Austin.

They recalled his sense of humor, his enthusiasm for football, his academic talents, and his kindness to others.

"He was an amazing child - very friendly and loving and just an all-around great kid," Ms. Takacs said.

Austin would invite friends over every Monday night to film comedy sketches and dances to post on YouTube.com, the family recalled.

"I made them chocolate chip cookies," Ms. Takacs said, managing a smile. "That's one thing I will miss dearly. He would make anybody laugh."

In a journal entry dated Sept. 4, Austin wrote about his dream to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes and to meet his hero, A.J. Hawk, a former OSU linebacker who now plays for the Green Bay Packers.

"I do dream to be on the Buckeyes and the Green Bay Packers, but to achieve this dream I have to do the best I can," Austin wrote.

Underneath, his teacher wrote: "Work hard and make that dream come true - you can do it."

The Takacses, who own Takacs Grocery & Meats in Toledo, have not returned to work yet.

Ashlyn was to attend class today at Coy Elementary School. She is coping well, Mr. Takacs said, but he felt she hadn't yet grasped the reality of Austin's death.

"We're a strong family and we will get through this," he said confidently.

In honor of Austin, the family plans to set up a scholarship fund in his name, which will be funded by private contributions.

The City of Oregon will install a bench in memory of Austin at the city's recreation center, Mayor Marge Brown said.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:

cbarrett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6507.



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