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Community mourns the loss of Knox teen

October 13, 2011

Photo by Benjamin Haut: Morgan Howisen, left, wears a dinosaur hat to Drew's candlelight service Wednesday night because it was a favorite hat of his to wear at the Subway restaurant, where he worked in Knox. Howisen attended the vigil with friends Becca Hardel and her sister Bethany Hardel (right).

KNOX — A community is in mourning following the tragic loss of a Knox High School student. Andrew “Drew” Shearin was a 17-year-old junior whose life touched an unbelievable number of hearts before he was prematurely torn away from his family and friends, spurring an astounding amount of sorrow in the community.
Shearin's death is the result of a single-car accident which occurred on S.R. 8 in Starke County Monday night. While the accident is still under investigation, police said alcohol and drugs are not believed to be a factor.
Knox High School Principal Elizabeth Ratliff issued a release about the school and community’s tragic loss.
“Drew was an extremely popular and engaging student and will be greatly missed by his peers, our staff, and the Knox community,” Ratliff said “We also offer our heartfelt sympathies to the family for their loss.”
A candlelight vigil was held for Drew at the Knox High School band tower Wednesday night, drawing a crowd of hundreds. The darkness was lit up by a sea of candles, each flame burning bright and illuminating the tears on the faces of the many who had gathered together to pay tribute to the life of Drew and support each other in dealing with this painful loss. Even amidst the sadness, a flicker of Drew’s humor shined through — many people in attendance donned fake mustaches, reminiscent of one of Drew’s many humorous experiences.
Former Knox High School graduate Morgan Howisen attended the candlelight vigil wearing a dinosaur hat.
"One of the former employees Francesa Saviola had the hat in Subway (Drew's place of employment) one day and Drew loved it! Fran and Drew were also work spouses. Drew would always wear it at work; so I decided I would represent Drew and wear it for him since Francesa couldn't make it," Howisen said.
Drew's friends say he was just a really happy guy.
“Drew was my first friend I had when I moved to Knox. I remember the first thing he said to me was ‘We’re going to be best friends!’ And that’s exactly what happened. He was always happy and always had a smile on his face,” said Drew’s friend Brandi Budde.
Social and media networks had hundreds of posts go up on their sites, paying tribute to a friend who left them all too soon.
“Drew, you were the last person I thought would die at this young of age. It’s so hard without you. You always brightened up the room when you walked in, always had a smile on your face, and was so talented and everything. I know that you were trying to learn the flute before you left us. But now, you can play all the instruments that you want. We all miss you and send prayers out to your family. Love you, always and miss you. <3 Taylor," (Kemble).
Kemble is also a student at Knox High School.
Drew was a drum major for the high school band, involved in theater at school, and he was also a member of the National Honor Society.
Not unlike the flames burning brightly the night of his vigil, Drew seemed to have a way of brightening up the life of anyone he spoke to.
“Drew was the light that was brightest in the room,” said Knox resident Shelly Kemble. “He was a friend to all whether you knew him five minutes or five years. His smile was always magical and he was so full of positive energy. Our prayers are with his family, and the students at Knox.”
Drew was a musical prodigy. In the eighth grade, he began to compose music. He was self taught, which is an amazing accomplishment for an adult; for a child, it demonstrates how musically brilliant he was.
Drew's first piece, titled "Uncertainty," was performed by a high school wind ensemble in Lafayette — the performance earned them a two-minute thundering ovation. The composition earned young Drew the coveted Indiana Music Educator's Association award. This year, he won the award once again — this time for an original choral composition called "The Sweetest Air Is Most Often The Thickest."
Drew's teachers were also deeply affected by the loss of such an amazing young man.
"Drew was an amazingly sweet and caring person who was always positive even in the face of adversity. He would bring a smile to your face just by smiling at you. I used to try to embarrass him just because his cheeks would turn very red and he would smile a big goofy smile that would brighten my day," said Knox High School Band Director Craige Phipps.
Being drum major was something that Drew was a natural at. He was just one of those people whose passion made him a natural — born leader.
"Drew motivated others around him like a true leader should, even if they didn't want to be motivated; and he would not let their resistance dissuade his passion or positivity," said Phipps.
Terrill Hahn is another educator at Knox High School who had the honor of having Drew as a student. Hahn directs the high school plays and Drew participated in those like he did so many other activities.
"Drew was an incredible, bright spirit who touched so many of us. He had this twinkle in his eye whether he was smiling or not, and most of the time he was smiling. He was intelligent, creative, and dedicated to whatever role he was playing," she said.
Hahn shared one of her first memories of Drew in a drama production. And like everything else he did, his sense of humor and creative mind shined through.
"I still remember him in his first high school production. He was playing one of the supporting roles in a comedy called Merry Murders at Montmarie. He was a secret agent disguised as a ski instructor and wore a ski suit for most of the show. He kept asking during rehearsals if we could get a tear-away ski suit that he could rip off at the right moment and have a tux underneath like James Bond," she said.
Hahn said that Drew wasn't a student who did things in a small way — he always gave the best that he had to offer.
"Whatever role he played he embraced completely, whether it was a cat who became a footmen in Cinderella; the muscle-bound Lysander who thought he could get a tan from the moon in A Midsummer Night in the OC; or the serious, intense Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof. This fall he asked for a small role because of his other responsibilities. Drew was that kind of person who didn't let an ego get in the way; and that small role he was playing, he completely embraced. His fellow students respected him, looked up to him, and adored him," she said.
And like hundreds of other mourners in this close-knit community, Drew's teachers stand among them.
"I will miss Drew and feel deeply honored to have had him as a student for the past six years," Phipps said.
"He brought a light and energy to us that we will greatly miss," said Hahn.
The Knox High School band has announced that they will be dedicating their regional competition on Saturday to Drew. And while they know performing will be so difficult, they are doing it because it is what their friend, classmate and drum major would want.
Family and friends are asking everyone who knew Drew to place a blue music note in the top left corner of their windshield in his remembrance, and a similar movement is taking place on Facebook with profile pictures being replaced with blue music notes or pictures of Drew.
Funeral services for Drew will be held Friday, Oct. 14 at the Knox Community High School at 6 p.m., with visitation being held from 4 p.m. until time of services at the school. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to the Drew Shearin Memorial Music Scholarship. Rannells Funeral Home, Hamlet Chapel is handling arrangements. To leave online condolences go to rannellsfuneralhome.com.

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