(Versailles, Ind.) – A typical first day of school, especially senior year of high school, is typically full of happy hugs, smiles, and high-fives.
Tanner Tucker (top right) with his siblings (from
left) Trent, Ty and Toria.
It’s likely to be a much different environment as students return to South Ripley High School for the first student day Wednesday, less than one week after the death of popular student Tanner Tucker.
Tucker, 17 and a senior-to-be, was killed Saturday night when the car he was driving alone in left the pavement on State Road 101 north of Milan. The vehicle struck a tree, killing him.
South Ripley High principal Bob Meyer said he received a phone call about 2:00 that morning and knew it could be nothing good.
“The first thing you think of is your own family, and it was my own family – our school family,” Meyer said Tuesday as he and other staff made final preparations for what will be an emotional first week.
Tucker was a model student. He played sports for school teams, was a volunteer coach for Special Olympics, and had been elected this senior class’ president every year since the 8th grade.
“He was a basketball player and would have probably been one of our starting players this year and of course graduation where the senior class president always played a role during the graduation, so it’s going to be a constant reminder during the course of the year,” said Meyer.
Tanner’s basketball jersey was hung in the high school gymnasium lobby during a volleyball scrimmage Tuesday. It’s accompanied by a memorial where students will be able to leave messages for their classmate.
Dozens of messages such as "Tan my heart sunk when i heard the news" and "I keep questioning 'Why you' 'Why Tanner Tucker'" have already been left on his Facebook page.
Staff will take a few days off from teaching to become counselors as students return. Meyer said teachers will give students freedom to express their feelings and grief as several counselors and ministers come to the school.
Tanner’s father, Trace, is a special education teacher for South Ripley Middle School, located in the same building as the high school. His mother Denise teaches special education at South Dearborn Middle School in Aurora. Younger Tucker siblings are in 7th and 4th grades in South Ripley schools.
South Ripley students will leave school Wednesday and head straight to Tucker’s visitation beginning at 3:00 at Versailles Baptist Church, where Tucker was active in the church youth group.
Last respects will be paid Thursday morning when the funeral is held at the church at 10:30. He will be buried at Flat Rock Cemetery near Osgood.
“We’ll remember Tanner for a long, long time. That’s the key thing. Just keep his memory alive for as long as we can,” said Meyer.