Granite City High School has been rocked this summer by the deaths of four young people, including two whose funerals will be on Saturday.
“It’s been a tough summer,” said Superintendent Jim Greenwald, who is the uncle of one of the young persons.
On Saturday, funeral services will be conducted for senior Abigail “Abby” McElroy, 17, who died on Friday after suffering injuries in a car crash last month, and for 2013 graduate Zachary “Zack” Kibort, 20, who died on Monday.
Incoming freshman Toney Graham, 13, died on June 17 after collapsing during a voluntary preseason football practice in the school gym and 2014 graduate Zachery M. Boland, 19, died on July 15 in a forklift accident at a warehouse in the Gateway Commerce Center.
Greenwald said he’s never had to cope with so many deaths of people associated with the school district in such a short time span.
“You just never know,” said Greenwald, who served as the high school principal for six years and is entering his third school year as superintendent.
Kibort, who was the nephew of Greenwald, and McElroy were both popular members of the Granite City High School marching band, Greenwald said.
Greenwald said Kibort was “a talented musician,” who played the trumpet. Kibort was headed into his junior year at Saint Louis University.
Greenwald declined to discuss the cause of Kibort’s death. The funeral will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Irwin Chapel in Granite City.
McElroy was injured in a two-vehicle crash on July 22 at the intersection of Illinois 162 and Keebler Road in Madison County, according to Illinois State Police spokesman Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. McElroy, who was driving a car, was on Keebler Road and attempted to turn onto Illinois 162. A witness said McElroy pulled into oncoming traffic and her car was struck on the driver’s side by another car going east on Illinois 162, Dye said. A passenger in McElroy’s car and the other driver were injured in the crash.
The Rev. Mark Maynard of Calvary Life Church in Granite City remembers McElroy as a friendly, bright musician.
“She loved to make people laugh,” said Maynard, who will be one of the ministers for McElroy’s funeral at 11 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Life.
McElroy played the violin during Sunday services at Calvary Life, often as a soloist.
“She lived an exemplary life,” Maynard said. “She was very passionate about her music, very conscientious and caring.”
The Granite City High School Marching Warriors Band Facebook page has a photo of band members wearing an “ocean of green” T-shirts in honor of McElroy. The T-shirt message says “Wear green for Abby.”
Dozens of people have posted comments for her.
“She was an integral part of our band,” Greenwald said. “Our hearts just go out to the family and to everyone involved with her because she really, really was a wonderful young lady.”
Toney Graham, who went by his middle name Malik, was known as “our gentle giant” who was “full of positive energy,” said his aunt Rhoda Graham. The Graham family has established a GoFundMe account to help defray funeral costs.
Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn said in June the young football player had a heart ailment.
Greenwald said Boland played on the Granite City High hockey team. “Zach was the St. Louis Blues’ No. 1 fan,” according to his obituary notice. “Zach loved life, he loved to laugh, but most of all he loved his family and friends.”
Greenwald said counseling is available to any Granite City High student who requests it.