For nearly 40 years, a small memorial nestled in the grassy quad between two West Lincoln schools has stood as a silent tribute to the students whose lives tragically ended before their high school graduation. Known as the Circle of Friends, the memorial was left neglected for several years. But one West Lincoln High School student rose to the challenge, spending his summer updating and beautifying the memorial.
According to PTO member Karen Byers, the Parent Teacher Organization reached out to Logan Scronce, a rising sophomore at West Lincoln High School, to tackle the project.
“I took those ideas and added some things, like an angel, the lights and they approved of that,” Scronce said.
“Some of the teachers were concerned that there were names not listed here a few years ago,” Byers said. “About two years ago, that’s when we decided that we wanted to do a beautification project. And through talking with people, we realized that there were names missing, and it was looking pretty bad up here. Some of the plants had died and some were overgrown. We were so glad Logan stepped up and did this for us.”
According to Byers, the West Lincoln Middle School PTO donated approximately $1,500 for the project, funds that had been raised from a Sun Drop fundraiser during the 2013-2014 school year.
A Boy Scout since his early years of elementary school, Scronce decided to pursue the project as part of his Eagle Scout requirements.
Scronce is part of Troop 75 at First United Methodist Church in Lincolnton. His scoutmasters, Scott Beam and Cheryl McKean, along with 18 of his fellow troop members, worked together to complete the project.
“The project itself started around April,” he said. “That’s when we had our workday. The planning as far as where to get the stuff, ordering — that happened in March.”
In addition to cleaning the current memorial statues, Scronce worked with the PTO to acquire donations and discounts for labor, concrete, a new memorial, benches, new shrubbery and an angel statue from local businesses such as Saine’s Ace Hardware, Fulbright Lumber and Hampton’s Wrecker Service.
“The most challenging part was getting the monument part how they wanted and in our price range,” he said. “We were planning to make it like the others, (but because of the cost) we had to scale back a bit.”
“I think the hardest thing was trying to research all of the middle school names,” Scronce’s mother, Chrissy Scronce, said.
Several high school and middle school students’ names were added to the new memorial monument. Those included were James R. Frye, Jr., 1999; Cameron Jeter, 2007; Jordan A. Killian, 2007; John Luck Crosby, 2009; and Jevon M. Cowdy, 2009.
While working on the project, Scronce said he was inspired, having lost a dear friend and former troop member a few years back. During his sixth grade year, Scronce said his friend and family member, Van Davis, III, passed away at the end of his fifth grade year. According to Scronce, it was an emotional part of the project.
“It’s rewarding, knowing that I’m able to bring peace to these families and help others,” Scronce said.
The Rededication Ceremony will be held Aug. 17 at 4 p.m. Family members with lost loved ones and community members are invited to remember the students that have passed over the years. Hulls Grove Baptist Church Pastor Marcus Redding is scheduled to lead the ceremony.
Creating the Circle of Friends
According to previous reporting from the Lincoln Times-News, the Circle of Friends memorial was originally designed to honor the five lives that were lost after a fatal car wreck in October 1974.
The article, published in the Oct. 28, 1974 edition, reported that six juniors at West Lincoln High School were returning from a Saturday night junior varsity football game at West Lincoln when the car, traveling on Howards Creek Mill Road at “a high rate of speed, went off the road and partially into a ditch after rounding a curve, careened back across the road and struck a tree at the residence of Cecil Wise.” The article said the impact sliced the vehicle in half, throwing the front of the vehicle approximately 50 feet from the tree.
Five of the car’s occupants were instantly killed upon impact. Only Rosanne Peeler of Route 6 in Lincolnton survived the wreck, being reported in stable condition at Crowell Memorial Hospital at the time of publication. All of the victims were 16 years old.
Those killed in the wreck included Terry Wayne Heaver of Route 1 in Lincolnton, Cynthia Rena Hoyle of Route 2 in Vale, Charles Richard Towery of Route 1 in Cherryville, Wray Robert Blanton, Jr. of Route 2 in Lincolnton and Tamera Ruth Beam of Route 3 in Cherryville. According to the police report, Branton was driving the 1974 Oldsmobile at the time of the wreck.
On Oct. 28 and 29, both West Lincoln High School and West Lincoln Junior High School were closed or proceeded with early dismissal under the direction of Superintendent Norris Childers, thus permitting the students to attend the funerals held. Board of Commissioners chairman Jim Warren declared Oct. 28 as a day of mourning for the county, requiring all flags flown to be lowered to half-staff.
An article in the Oct. 30 edition of the Times-News reported that a trust fund was established by the West Lincoln High School junior class, of which the victims were members. Using a $2,500 fund, originally reserved for the junior prom, the students voted to give the money to the scholarship, essentially voting to cancel the dance that year.