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Dozens remember 10-year-old Pa. boy

October 11, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

ORRSTOWN, Pa. - Singing "This Little Light of Mine," dozens of people lighted the night with candles Sunday in remembrance of 10-year-old Johnny Lee Coons, killed eight days earlier when he was struck by a car in front of his Lurgan Township home.

"It was terrific how much he touched people's lives. He did it when he was living and he's doing it now when his life has passed," said his father, Bobby Coons.

Eighty or more people gathered outside the Coons home for the 8 p.m. candlelight vigil, walking down Cumberland Highway from where the boy was struck to a makeshift memorial of flowers, cards and crosses where his body came to rest, a distance of about 60 yards.

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Coons, of 11387 Cumberland Highway, died at the scene of the Oct. 2 accident, according to Pennsylvania State Police. Shortly after 3 p.m., Coons crossed the road to get the mail and was walking back when he was hit by a southbound 1990 Chevrolet Lumina driven by Duane N. Newlin, 51, of Spring Run, Pa.

A fourth-grader at Hamilton Heights Elementary School, Coons had previously attended Lurgan Elementary, said his mother, Jeannie. She said students at Lurgan will plant a tree in his memory on Tuesday.

"He loved four-wheeling, riding his bike, playing ball of all kinds," Jeannie Coons said of her only child. "He was afraid of the war. He didn't want to see anybody die."

Bobbi Baum of Roxbury, Pa., never met Johnny Coons, but she helped organize the vigil.

"I only have one child and I can't imagine," she said, not finishing the sentence. Baum made a sign reading "Won't Be Forgotten" and brought 200 candles.

"Johnny was at my house a couple of days a week. He would visit my girls and play with them a couple of hours," said neighbor Sylvania Neil.

"Bye, Johnny. I love you. I'll see you tomorrow," was how one of her daughters always said goodbye to him, Neil said.

Jeannie Coons, a teacher at Shippensburg (Pa.) High School, said she has learned things about her son since his death.

"His nickname was Mr. Speedy ... because he was the quickest kid in the school. That was something we didn't know," she said. A number of her own students and their parents attended the vigil.

"It's not very easy," said Kyle Myers of Arnold, Md. Myers always played with Coons when he came up to visit his grandparents and knew Coons' love of speed.

"He's up in heaven, racing Dale Earnhardt," Myers said.

Neil's parents, Ed and Linda Miley, said Coons will be missed by them, as well as by people who never knew his name while he lived. They said one man who often waved at the boy as he drove past Coons' school bus stop later spoke with Sylvania Neil at the store she manages just up the road from the accident scene.

"I guess I can't wave at Johnny this morning," the man told Neil.

"We're looking for guidance in a spiritual manner to get through this and it's working," Jeannie Coons said. Something her son said a few months ago has helped, she said.

"God said everything is OK. ... He talks to me all the time," she recalled her son saying.

Jeannie Coons said her son also told them that one day he wanted a mansion for his family, "and a Ferrari."

"Now he has his mansion," she said.

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