Memorial Day weekend, 2003, a family, and a sixth grade class, were about to have their lives changed permanently--in a way that middle school students do not usually experience--when fellow classmate, Andy Domitro, did not return to school at Christian Liberty Academy after the long weekend. Andy and his parents, Rita and Werner Domitro, were killed in a car accident on Saturday, May 24th. His older brother, Michael, survived the accident. He had previously attended Christian Liberty Academy. Andy's mother, Rita, who also died in the accident, worked for the academy. His father worked for Sears. When news spread through the school of the death of sixth grader, Andy, and his parents, Mrs. Audrey Hessler, Andy's sixth grade homeroom teacher had the daunting task of going back to the nineteen other students in her sixth grade classroom knowing one of her students had been killed that weekend. During the next week the sixth grade class--and almost all of Christian Liberty Academy-- attended a wake and a funeral for Andy, and his mom, Mrs. Domito, the school secretary, and Andy's father. It was their Christian faith kept them strong.
On the one year anniversary of Andy's death, his homeroom friends, then in seventh grade, got together with Mrs. Audrey Hessler to remember Andy. Mrs. Hessler shared a poem she wrote as a remembrance for the class, titled "The Empty Desk." An author, the poem has been published in a book by Mrs. Hessler about grief and loss, titled We Went on Folding Laundry.
Last Memorial Day on the tenth anniversary of the passing of Andy and his parents, an idea to do something special to remember Andy and his sixth grade class started to flourish. Mrs. Hessler, an eighteen-year teacher at CLA, still teaching sixth grade, got together with art teacher, Mr. Jeff Morello, and artist and CLA security guard, Mr. David Bergquist, to plan a special remembrance. Jeff Morello did the calligraphy for the poem "The Empty Desk," and Dave Bergquist drew the empty desk, to be featured now at this year's Valentine's Day Christian Liberty Academy Fine Arts Show. Though all are welcome to attend the art show, among the special guests invited for that evening are Andys' sixth grade classmates.
It's been over ten years now since the passing of Andy, and his parents, but his memory and the affect he had on the lives of many at CLA continues. To honor that memory a special poetry reading and the art work of "The Empty Desk" will be featured at this year's CLA 2014 Fine Arts Show on Valentine's Day night. And it's an appropriate day for this remembrance because Andy, a well-loved sixth grade boy, with his parents, lives on in the hearts of many.