Middle School Football Player Mourned at Balloon Release
Roughly 100 students, teachers and family members gathered Wednesday night at Ross Park to remember Alex Harr, who died Monday.
Shortly before nightfall, about 100 people huddled together in the middle of Ross Park.
“Do you need a tissue? I have tissues,” offered one girl.
“I’m going to cry again,” said another.
The somber crowd cried, embraced and waited as they held onto mostly black and yellow balloons.
A woman with a shaky voice announced they would let Alex Harr go when they let go of their balloons.
Then they counted to 25, said “We love you Alex,” and the balloons rose into the sky.
Loved ones, friends and classmates again embraced one another as they remembered 14-year-old Harr, who died Monday.
“He was a very popular kid, a local leader, the kid you went to to score touchdown,” said Scott Raver, Roberts Middle School football coach. “It’s a horrible shock to our community, especially the day after the season ended.”
The Summit County Medical Examiner has yet to determine the cause of death.
Teammate and friend Damien Fleming said in the four or five years he knew Harr, he can’t say he ever had a bad time together.
“(It was) always fun to play football with him because he always had the greatest yell and made everyone smile and laugh,” Fleming said. “(He) made it fun to come to football and work for two-and-a-half hours.”
Harr played baseball, basketball and wrestled. Friends said Harr’s football jersey number, 25, will be retired.
Off the field, friends remembered Harr as always laughing, smiling, cracking jokes — not the serious type. He put others before himself, was a talented artist and, Fleming added, Harr had a thing for the ladies.
“Alex was a very loyal friend,” Kaley Capron, 13, said. “You could feel comfortable telling him anything. He had the best advice. He always had the best attitude.”
That attitude has been a comfort the past few days.
“One of the two things I remembered was we were sitting in his backyard,” said friend and former teammate Tony Battalio, 14. “We were messing around and we had his basketball hoop by his trampoline and he decides to jump off the roof (and) shoot it. He lands and just snaps (the trampoline) in half.”
“Or being at Caleb’s and me and him were playing catch with a football," Fleming chimed in. "He didn’t have the greatest arm and he tossed it in the street and a car ran over it.”
“It blew it up, and we ran” Capron said, laughing.
“We all ran and screamed like little girls,” Fleming added.
“I remember that,” Capron said. “That was great.”
As Fleming, Capron and Battalio reminisced, some left while others gathered round to talk about Harr.
“Alex was a good man,” said cousin Jacob Harr, 15. “I love him so very much. It’s really sad that this has happened, but we’ve got to think of the best — all of the great times he had with a lot of people. All the smiles that he put on people’s faces.”
Jacob said Harr always played with his younger sister, Rylee Eberhart, and wrestled with Zoey, his German Shepard. Harr’s mom, sisters Holly, 18, and Rylee, 7, were at the balloon release but left soon after.
“We’ve just got to stay strong and support his mom,” Jacob said.
Following the announcement of Harr's death, the school has made counselors available, several friends said.
A commemorative Facebook page was created for Harr and amassed more than 700 likes by Wednesday night.
Calling hours will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Silva-Hostetler Funeral Home in Barberton. The funeral itself will be private. According to the Facebook page, there is a memorial fund at FirstMerit Bank.