A popular East Carter High School student and athlete will be remembered during funeral services at his school tonight and tomorrow.
Lewis John “Johnny” Fankell, 17, a junior at East Carter High School, where he also served as third baseman for the school baseball team, died Saturday in an automobile accident. Students from East Carter and West Carter High schools organized an impromptu memorial for Fankell on the East Carter High School baseball field Sunday afternoon, according to principal Larry Kiser, who said the student-organized gathering seemed to be an important early step in the grieving process countywide.
“They’re pretty torn up about it. They are asking ‘Why?’ and just grieving,” Kiser said Monday afternoon, explaining the high school staff planned a day of activities for students dealing with the emotions of losing a classmate, as well as counseling for any who wanted it from either of two guidance counselors or local pastors and youth pastors. The high school principal said Fankell was an FFA member, in addition to playing baseball and being widely regarded as “a good kid.”
“He was a well liked individual, not only here but at West Carter High School as well,” he said, explaining Fankell’s girlfriend is a cheerleader at the county’s other rival high school. Many of the students who gathered at the baseball field Sunday afternoon were West Carter students, Kiser noted.
“I think what happened yesterday at the baseball field helped a lot,” Kiser said, explaining students organized the memorial rally and invited youth pastors to speak briefly during the gathering. School staff offered bereavement activities including memorial cards for Fankell’s family, as well as a chance to sign or leave a note or drawing in permanent marker on Fankell’s student desk, he said, “Basically anything to help get them talking about what happened.”
East Carter baseball coach Jerimiah Shearer said Fankell was a hard worker and “pretty good hitter,” who had recently been spending extra time working with weights and looking forward to the upcoming season as the team’s third baseman.
“First and foremost, he was a great teammate,” Shearer said. “He was very unselfish. There were times last year when a senior varsity player forgot his belt and cleats and he would be the first to give up his belt and cleats so they could play. He was a kid that worked very hard.”
Kiser said visitation services will be conducted at the East Carter High School gymnasium from 6 to 9 p.m. today, with funeral services at the gym starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.