Thursday, January 25, 2001

School copes with two deaths

Teacher, son died on Ohio 4 Bypass

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Four members of Butler County's Grambsch family left the Christian school in Fairfield where two were students and two were teachers, taking a route they had traveled many times.

        The Grambsches were just around the corner from their Liberty Township residence when their car crashed. Two of them were killed and two were seriously injured in a head-on collision with a semi tractor-trailer Tuesday afternoon, the first of four fatal wrecks in 24 hours that took five lives in the Tristate.

        But some loved ones wouldn't say that the two who died from the Ohio 4 Bypass wreck — the car's driver, Joseph Grambsch, 16, and his mother, Susan — never made it home.

        “We know that Joe and Susan are home today. They're with their heavenly father,” said Sherry Wilkerson, development coordinator for Cincinnati Christian Schools. Joseph was a junior and Mrs. Grambsch, 49, taught college-prep English at the 540-student, nondenominational K-12 campus in Fairfield.

        Wayne Beaver, the high school's principal, said a quote — which a friend found bookmarked in Joseph's Bible — now seems almost prophetic: “To be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.”

        That message offers solace to those mourning the deaths, Mr. Beaver said.

[photo] Wayne Beaver, principal of Cincinnati Christian Schools activated the school's telephone prayer chain when he learned of the tragedy.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        “While we miss them, we can take comfort in the fact that they're with God — and that's where we want to be someday,” Mr. Beaver said.

        Still, the Grambsch family's tragedy is the most sudden, most profound to strike Cincinnati Christian in Mr. Beaver's 20 years there, he said. “They were at the center of us, what we call our school family.”

        Mrs. Grambsch's youngest son, Stephen, 8, a second-grader, was listed in serious condition Wednesday at Children's Hospital Medical Center. His sister, Jennifer, 25, was in critical but stable condition at University Hospital. She is a 1994 graduate of the school who returned to teach two years ago.

        Supporters also are praying for the other two members of the Grambsch family: father Terry, who was working at the time of the crash, and daughter Teresa, a 1995 graduate of Cincinnati Christian. The family attends the Tri-County Assembly of God Church, adjacent to the school.

        The first inkling of the tragedy came early Tuesday evening when schoolmates saw TV reports — and recognized the Grambsches' white 1995 Chrysler LeBaron convertible, Mr. Beaver said.

        Soon, he activated the school's telephone prayer chain. “We had an army of people praying for them,” Mr. Beaver said.

        By 9 p.m., more than 100 students and their parents had gathered in the school's gymnasium to pray; much of the school day Wednesday was spent in prayer.

        Fairfield Township police say the crash happened around 4:35 p.m. on Bypass 4, just south of Ohio 4, after the northbound Grambsch vehicle traveled left-of-center into the path of southbound traffic. One semi swerved to get out of the way, but the LeBaron hit that truck's rear tire and then traveled in front of a second semi. The driver of that truck, Greg Schmidt, 31, of Harrison, was treated at Mercy Hospital Hamilton and released.

        Investigator Wednesday were trying to learn what might have caused the Grambsch vehicle to travel into oncoming traffic, said Fairfield Township Police Chief Richard St. John.

        Both survivors in the leBaron were in the back seat.

        Joseph, whose driver's license had been issued a little more than two months ago, was pronounced dead at the scene; Mrs. Grambsch died at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.

        Mrs. Grambsch was known for her intellect, her dry wit, her closeness with her family and the way she challenged her students, said Mr. Beaver.

        One of Joe's classmates, Teresa Diefenbacher, 17, of Colerain Township, said everyone in their close-knit class of 48 knew Joe, his mom, sister and brother.

        She said it would be hard to go to English class today knowing Mrs. Grambsch won't be there. “She used her job to reach others for Christ. She was a fair and awesome teacher,” Teresa said.

        Joe played bass guitar for chapel services and was going to play the part of the captain in the school's upcoming production of The Sound of Music.

        “His personality was always positive, making classmates and teachers smile,” Teresa said.

       Sue Kiesewetter, Michael D. Clark and Earnest Winston contributed to this story.

- School copes with two deaths
Five die in four accidents in 24 hours

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