Washingtonville Community Grieves John West
By Eugenia Moskowitz
Beloved Washingtonville High School senior John Peter West III passed away unexpectedly on May 2 due to injuries sustained in a car accident on Route 208 near Twin Arch Road.
In shock and disbelief, more than 50 friends and classmates, the boys’ lacrosse team, and school administrators gathered at Taft Elementary School from 6:00-7:30 to grieve, remember, and support each other. In tears, the students were hushed and often silent as they laid flowers and played some of John’s original music — John was an exceptional student, a talented and creative musician who experimented with a variety of sounds, and a formidable athlete. He was a great friend to many, and the students told stories of sleepovers and video game nights among other personal memories. A box of Oreos was placed on the ground for John simply because, as one student said, he loved them. The students sang “Wizard Nation” and “Johnny West” as they wept and leaned on each other.
Afterwards, they went to John’s high school parking spot where more students gathered, placed candles and flowers, and wrote messages to him in chalk, until dispersing at around 9:30 p.m. to various students’ houses to support each other further. Some gathered at the accident site on Route 208.
Stunned, many in the senior class gathered again early in the morning of May 3 at John’s parking spot while by noon, Route 208 at Twin Arch was narrowed by police to one-lane traffic due to the massive amount of cars and people coming to pay tribute. At the high school, the grief was heavy and a crisis intervention team led by guidance department chair Scott Lerner was in place to respond to and help students as they coped in the aftermath. Washingtonville’s Health & Wellness Counseling Center therapists were also part of this effort. The shock of what had happened affected not only the senior class but the whole high school as John’s personality had reached the entire student body through his multiple areas of interest — academic, artistic, and athletic.
On the evening of May 3, a student-organized rosary was prayed at St. Mary’s Catholic Church with Fr. Jeffrey Maurer’s guidance. The church was quickly filled to standing room only by John’s family and many friends. On May 7, a celebration of his life was held at Grace Community Church, again packed, with guidance from Pastor Jim Barringer, where John’s father and sister asked the community and especially the Class of 2018 to enjoy these coming weeks leading up to graduation as John would have, to “go crazy at the All Night Party and Senior Banquet,” and to remember that “you are not alone.” People in attendance expressed the need to “be more like John” or, as many further articulated to each other, to find the part inside themselves that best expresses John’s outstanding mind, heart, and personality, and to reach out and share those qualities with others. And that in this way, John’s spirit will be spread to others by those who knew him, loved him, and will always love him.
The high school arranged to bus Washingtonville students on May 9 and 10 to the Redeemed Christian Fellowship in Poughkeepsie, where final services were held.
CAPTION: A member of the Washingtonville varsity lacrosse team kneeled at West’s parking spot at the Washingtonville High School on May 3. On May 8, the Cornwall lacrosse team presented Washingtonville with a plaque in memory of West, inscribed with the words: John West III — #24 — A stellar individual, fierce competitor, loyal teammate, and true friend. His spirit will be profoundly missed but the memory of John will live in our hearts forever.” (Photo provided)
CAPTION : John Peter West III