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Smithsburg mourns student-athlete

November 19, 1997

Smithsburg mourns student-athlete

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Charas Heurich approached many endeavors in the same way - with a tireless determination, a warm smile and friendly manner.

On Tuesday, Charas' family, her school and her community were mourning her death from injuries she sustained in a traffic accident a day earlier.

Her efforts in the classroom at Smithsburg High School, where she was a senior, resulted in high grades and membership in the National Honor Society. Her studies included part-time classes at Hagerstown Junior College.

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In athletics her hard work paid off. Last month she finished third in the Washington County cross country meet. At the state 1A championships on Nov. 8, the 17-year-old Smithsburg resident finished ninth, leading her team to a fifth-place finish.

"I can't say enough about her. She was so bright, so self-motivated, a self-starter," said Chris Charas, her father.

At about 12:05 p.m. Monday, Charas Harmony Heurich's 1990 Honda pulled onto Md. 64 from a stop sign on Bikle Road into the path of a 1993 Mazda MX-3, according to Maryland State Police. After the accident she was taken to Washington County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:56 p.m.

The driver of the Mazda, Donna E. Mong, 51, also of Smithsburg, was listen in fair condition Tuesday at the hospital.

"She was so bright, she was a light, which makes it all the much harder to let her go," said Simone Heurich, Charas' mother.

Those who knew Charas (pronounced KAR-is) described her as quiet, almost shy, but not timid enough to keep her from approaching a new student and making her feel welcome.

She was a class leader who on the day of the accident was preparing for the National Honor Society's sub sandwich sale fund-raiser.

Some said it was a sign of how well-liked Charas was that dozens of her classmates were at the hospital after the accident Monday night, keeping vigil in the hope she would survive.

"That was very touching, the outpouring of love and support they showed," Chris Heurich said.

The Rev. Julie Brigham, pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Smithsburg, recalled Charas as the "delightful little girl" who baby-sat for her daughter.

"She was lovely with children and people of all ages. She was a real light and she will be deeply missed," Brigham said.

In addition to her individual honors as a runner, Charas was a member of Smithsburg's 1996 and 1997 state championship track teams. She often would run on days when others weren't practicing and would work out at her family's Bikle Road home, her parents said.

"She had the work ethic of a true athlete, not only in athletics but in her academic endeavors," said her cross country coach, Herb Taber.

She was to be honored tonight during the county's Celebration of Excellence, a banquet for students with a 3.75 grade-point-average or higher.

She had received letters of acceptance from two colleges - Notre Dame and University of Maryland Baltimore County - and was awaiting word from others, and was working to secure scholarships, Chris Heurich said.

"She had the potential to be anything she wanted to be. I think the sky was the limit for her," said Jamie Paci, a Smithsburg High Spanish teacher who had Charas as a student for the past three years.

Eleven crisis-intervention counselors from the Washington County Board of Education were at Smithsburg High Tuesday to meet with grieving students, either in groups or individually.

Many students were crying, some had to leave their classes temporarily and others went home for the day, said Joe Millward, supervisor of pupil personnel and guidance for the school board.

The school's 700 students responded to the tragedy with "class and dignity," Principal Michael Shockey said.

"They supported each other, they talked with each other. I guess it's the definition of what it means to be there for someone," Shockey said.

Paci said the impact of Charas' death has hit nearly everyone at the school, including those who didn't know her.

"I watched her from a naive, little child who blossomed into a beautiful, young woman who had everything going for her," said Paci, her voiced straining with emotion.

Simone Heurich said if there is a positive lesson to be learned from her daughter's death, it is that people should express their love for each other each day, and not wait until tragedy to show their feelings.

"It's one of those things that sounds so simple, but it's not easy," she said.

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