GENOA - There will be an empty seat today at Genoa High School's graduation ceremony.
A week before the milestone for so many teenagers, senior John Schultz was killed in a four-wheeler accident.
The 18-year-old's family - dad Fred, mom Jenise, and older sister Carly - planned to attend the graduation event and accept John's diploma because he was looking forward to this day.
"He knew it was going to make a change in his life and he was looking forward to it and happy about it," Jenise Schultz said.
It's also important for the family to say "thank you" to the school community for help during the last week.
"We will miss him very, very much and we are so honored by the outpouring of love and respect from the students of Genoa," Mrs. Schultz said.
At the beginning of the 2 p.m. ceremony, principal Ted Keller will say some words of remembrance, and a moment of silence will be observed in honor of John.
It's been a rough week for the school's 140 graduates as they deal with the loss of their classmate, whom Mr. Keller called well-liked and a "nice young man."
Three buses of students went from the school to the funeral on Tuesday, taking a memorial of flowers from John's locker with them.
The accident that took John's life happened just before midnight May 15 off Woodville Township Road 165.
He was driving an all-terrain vehicle westbound on Road 165 when he failed to negotiate a right curve, went off the left side of the road, and hit a tree.
His passenger, Joseph Klopping, 19, of Genoa, was flown to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, Toledo, where he remains in fair condition. Neither was wearing a helmet.
That Friday night also was the evening before prom, Mr. Keller said.
The next day, students began to hear of the accident at a track meet in the morning and that night at prom, before dinner, a moment of silence was observed, Mr. Keller said.
The school thought about canceling the activities, he said, but decided to go ahead.
"I think it helped that we had all those activities, so Monday morning was a lot easier," he said.
Mr. Keller enlisted the help of another principal who went through a similar tragedy last year, when a senior died in a car accident the day before graduation at Mohawk High School in Wyandot County.
He said he asked Carol Koehler what she did when her former student, Carrie Payne, who was 18 at the time, was killed in a three-vehicle accident in May, 2008. One of Carrie's passengers, Heidi Tanner, 17, of Vanlue, a junior at Carey High School, also was killed in the crash.
Carrie's older brother accepted her diploma at the graduation ceremony to a standing ovation while her parents and other brother looked on.
Mr. Keller wanted to invite the Schultz family to do the same thing.
Having seniors die so close to graduation has occurred in the area before.
In 1999, two young women died in a car accident less than a month before their Start High School graduations.
Driver Cassie Jones and her passenger, Maggie Hayes, both 18, were killed when their car was struck by another vehicle at Jackman Road and Eleanor Avenue on May 16.
The teens had sent out graduation announcements and both were planning to attend college and pursue health careers.
A few years earlier, two Maumee High School graduates were killed leaving a graduation party.
It was June 3, 1996, when Atul Rawat, 18, the driver of the car, and passenger Andrew Bates, 17, were killed in the single-car accident just hours after their graduation ceremony. They had been at the home of three men who were later charged with supplying alcohol to the underage teens.
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