UPTON – A Blackstone Valley Tech student who “never came in with anything but a happy mood,” one instructor said, will be remembered today.
Joe Wilson of North Grafton died in a car accident in Sutton early Saturday morning. A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Liberty Church in Shrewsbury.
Three busloads of students will attend the service, said Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School Superintendent-Director Michael Fitzpatrick. A donor is covering the cost of the buses.
“We have also made adjustments in our schedule,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our counselors and our teachers have been particularly vigilant in monitoring any emotional distress of our students.”
Wilson, 16, was driving eastbound on Whitins Road at 1:15 a.m. Saturday when his car left the road and struck a tree, according to a statement from police. He and his passenger, Christopher “Topher” McLellan, 27, of Whitinsville, were pronounced dead at the scene. Neither was wearing a seat belt.
Preliminary investigation indicated that alcohol and speed were major contributing factors in the crash, police said. Sutton Police Officer Matthew Bohanan will investigate further, along with members of the Central Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council Accident Reconstruction Unit.
Auto body instructor John Rodominick taught Wilson for two-and-a-half years and said he “was the type of student a shop guy like me loved to get.”
Rodominick said Wilson was at ease talking with adults, vendors and classmates, and comfortable mentoring freshmen. He was particularly interested in rebuilding and restoring older cars.
“He couldn’t learn enough,” Rodominick said. “He just wanted to soak it all in. I think that’s why he injected himself in a lot of conversations: he’d come over and he would just want to absorb what you were teaching.”
The auto body shop students are now working to finish one of Wilson’s projects: restoring a 1965 Chevrolet Impala. Rodominick said the project is helping students cope with his death.
“It seemed to really pull the kids together,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said Wilson was a very popular student whose talents also included playing piano, saxophone and guitar.
Students interested in attending the funeral were required to provide parental consent by this morning. Parents could call the main office or submit a form, available in the school’s main office and website.
In addition to providing transportation for students, the school has taken a “proactive approach,” Fitzpatrick said, to help students cope. Staff members are on the alert and reaching out to distressed students.
A pep rally scheduled for today will be postponed until after vacation.
“Fortunately, it’s very rare that we find ourselves in this situation. In typical fashion, we take this as a family,” Fitzpatrick said. “Without glorifying a tragedy, we reach out to the family and hope that everyone learns from any negative experience and any loss.”