Community mourns boy's death

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By Nathan L. McBroom

At Simpsonville Elementary School today there is an empty seat in Shelley LaGrange's fourth-grade class.

The violent windstorm that roared through Shelby County on Sunday claimed the life of one of her students, Frederic Wilson, who died when he was struck by a large tree limb that was broken off by the 70 mph winds.

He was 10.

The storm, which was created by the breakup of Hurricane Ike, pummeled Western Kentucky and the Louisville Metro area for more than six hours, leaving significant damage.

Frederic was one of three people who lost their lives.

Just before noon on Sunday, when the winds began to gust at their most violent, Frederic was mowing the grass outside his family's home on Connor Station Road.

Cutting the lawn was a part of how Frederic earned his allowance, one of the many things the boy did to help around the house.

When Frederic's mother, Teal Wilson, noticed that the wind had started to pick up, she went looking for her son and found him lying on the ground.

The Simpsonville Fire Department and other emergency workers were on the scene within minutes of the accident.

SFD Assistant Fire Chief Ronnie Sowder said the trauma was severe. Frederic was rushed to Jewish Hospital of Shelbyville, where doctors worked for hours trying to revive him.

"It was just a terrible accident," Sowder said.

Frederic, who went by Eric for short, was the grandson of Fred Wiche, who was widely known in the community and across the state as The Weekend Gardener on WHAS television and radio in Louisville. Fred's column appeared in the Sentinel-News and is continued by his daughter Jeneen.

She said Teal and Christopher Wilson, Frederic's parent, have been devastated by the loss. "At this point we are trying to focus on taking the sting out of their everyday," she said.

Wiche said Frederic loved helping his mother around the house and was always willing to help in the family orchard.

"He was a fabulous little boy," she said. "He was the kind of kid that just wanted to please you. He was just so compassionate and loving."

Frederic, who called Wiche "Mopsy" because of her curly hair, and his sister, Georgiana, would spend Wednesday's at Wiche's house.

"He loved to ask me things like, 'How are the Asian pears doing?' And, 'Are the apples ready for harvest?" Wiche said.

Frederic also enjoyed playing soccer and was just starting to learn golf.

She said Frederic had ambitions of going into the Air Force Academy and often talked about possibly inventing a new type of hovercraft that could be used in everyday life.

"He had such high aspirations," she said.

"When you lose a kid like that you can't help but think of all of the lives that he could have touched."

Said Donna Wilson, Frederic's step-grandmother: "He was just a delightful little guy. He was one-in-a-million."

She said his death "has left a major void in our lives."

And he had an impact on others with an ever-present smile. "If ever he saw a class mate who had a frown on their face or who was crying, he would go right over to them and cheer them up," Wilson said.

And there is likely a classroom of children at Simpsonville Elementary who could use some cheering up today.

Schools were out on Monday and Tuesday for parent conferences and teacher's in-service, and today is the first day that schools are back in session since the accident.

Duanne Puckett, community relations coordinator for the school system, said extra counselors would be on hand to comfort students.

Simpsonville Elementary Principal Carla Breeding said in a press release that the accident was a tragedy.

"Our school system considers every student and staff member a vital part of our family. This tragedy is hard to accept and we will work together to cope with this loss."

Breeding also wrote a letter that will be sent home with students today, in which she informed parents to expect "a variety of emotions and responses to what has occurred. The most important thing we can do is be supportive and encourage an open expression of feelings."

She said teachers and counselors were briefed on guidelines for discussing grief and reactions to loss.

"We will try to maintain as normal a routine and structure as the situation allows," Breeding wrote, "and we encourage parents to do the same. We know you join us in our concern and sympathy for the family."