Athens High School To Honor Memory of Student at Graduation

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An Athens High School senior killed in a car crash on Wednesday will be honored at Saturday’s graduation, the school’s principal said.

Thomas J. Hamel, 18, was a senior at Athens High School with plans to attend Ohio University next year to study game design. He will have his name called along with the rest of the 2016 graduates, Principal David Hanning told WOUB.

Thomas Hamel. Photo courtesy of the Athens Messenger
Thomas Hamel

Hamel died in a car crash along with his sister, mother and aunt when the 1997 Toyota Corolla his mother, Lisa Foerster, was driving  failed to yield at a stop sign at the intersection of State Route 56 and State Route 93, pulling into the path of a 2009 Sterling truck.

The truck, owned by Rumpke of Cincinnati, struck the Corolla on the right side, causing it to rotate and come off the road. The car struck a guard rail on the southwest side of the intersection, according to an Ohio State Highway Patrol report.

Foerster, 55; Thomas Hamel, 18; his sister Emma Hamel, 19; and his aunt Lorraine Alsterberg, 57, all died as a result of the crash. Foerster and the Hamels are from Athens, Alsterberg was from Tigard, Oregon.

Hanning said many ideas are being considered to honor Thomas Hamel, who he said was an “excellent student” with a knack for Social Studies. Hamel received the Betty Miziko Outstanding Senior Social Studies Award, one of 21 J. Warren McClure scholarships given out by the high school.

Outside of academics, Hanning said Thomas Hamel was a “very well-liked student.”

Though plans for a tribute have not been formalized, Hanning said graduation will include him.

“We are certainly going to have a chair there for him and call his name as a graduate,” Hanning said.

Foerster lended her voice to the Ohio University community as an assistant professor with the College of Fine Arts.

Lisa Foerster. Photo courtesy of Ohio University

A native of Oregon, Foerster had taught at OU since August 2014, according to Katie Quaranta, spokeswoman for the university.

A profile on Ohio University’s website said Foerster was a coloratura soprano – a style of operatic singing which includes ornate vocal ornamentation. She had performed in operas, musicals and recitals in the United States and Germany. She was also the director of Opera Theater, serving as musical director for the Spring production of Urinetown, according to a press release from the college.

Members of the College of Fine Arts spoke about Foerster’s impact as a member of the college.

“Lisa was one of the most positive and encouraging people I have ever known,” said Debra Rentz, chair of the voice program, in the release. “Her passion for music and learning was contagious, and she truly inspired her students and colleagues to be the best they can be.”

Elizabeth Sayrs, interim dean of the College of Fine Arts, called Foerster “a valued colleague and friend in our community.”

A memorial is planned for Foerster, but details have not been finalized, according to the college.

Emma Hamel was a junior at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, studying German Studies. A statement from the college said Emma Hamel served as a resident advisor and worked in the Overseas and Off-Campus Programs office.

Both Athens High School and Ohio University have offered counseling services to any students in need of them.

The driver of the truck, George S. Stout, 27, of Albany, did not report any injuries. The investigation into the crash is ongoing.