Created on Tuesday, 30 October 2012 Written by REUBEN MEES
Every once in a while, Austin Houser liked to get a bit wild.
Rolling down snow-covered hills in trash cans was one example, according to stepbrothers Jon Coleman and Tyler Harshfield, who were among about 100 Benjamin Logan students to attend a Monday evening candlelight vigil for their late classmate.
(Examiner Photos/Reuben Mees)
Patience Gamble, left comforts Kaitlyn Smith during a Monday evening candlelight vigil at West Mansfield’s Veterans’ Memorial Park for 15-year-old Austin Houser who was killed by a hit-and-run driver Thursday.
“We did the dumbest things,” said 14-year-old Jon Coleman, who was a friend to the teen who lost his life in a fatal roadside hit-and-run collision. “We stuck each other in trash cans and used to throw each other down the hill.”
But one of Austin’s favorite pastimes — one of humanity’s most natural acts — walking — proved to be the deadly one for the 15-year-old Rushsylvania youth who lost his life late last week and was discovered dead over the weekend.
“He walked everywhere,” said Missy Kuhn, who helped organize the commemoration with her daughter Patience Gamble. “He walked from Rushsylvania to school functions. I said to call whenever he needed a ride, but his cell phone wasn’t working that day.”
Austin died after a Thursday evening collision in which the motorist allegedly swerved well off the State Route 274 right of way where he was walking before leaving the scene, deputies of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office report. His body was not located until Saturday afternoon.
Deputies have recovered a suspect vehicle, which was owned by a business. They are currently working with the Logan County Prosecutor’s Officer to obtain a search warrant to process the vehicle.
Evidence from the vehicle then will be processed through a crime lab.
Ellenna Houser, left, mother of 15-year-old Austin Houser who was killed by a hit-and-run driver Thursday, receives a hug from Austin’s friend Tyler Harshfield during a Monday evening candlelight vigil at West Mansfield’s Veterans’ Memorial Park.
Anyone with information about the incident or who may have seen the teen walking along S.R. 274 Thursday afternoon is urged to call Det. Phil Bailey or Deputy Jeff Anspach at the sheriff’s office, 592-5731.
But as the official investigation continues, friends weathered the blustery winds, misty rain and frigid temperatures to focus their attention on the young man they loved.
“Austin was one of my best friends in the world,” Patience, a classmate of Austin’s since 6th grade, said as tears rolled down her cheeks. “It’s amazing how many people came together. I’m just amazed at what one person can do to brighten up the world. I think Austin will have a chain reaction in our school.”
The ceremony was also a welcome relief for the family, Austin’s mother Ellenna Houser said in brief comments after the hourlong vigil, during which the many friends huddled away from the cold in the shelter house at West Mansfield’s Veterans’ Memorial Park.
“This helped lighten my heart,” the mother said. “I’ve been thinking about all the negative things until now and this helped. I’m just amazed ... I can’t believe all the true friends with big hearts that would come out in this weather. I’m amazed how true all his friends are.”
Dozens of those in attendance spoke at the event, recalling stories of Austin’s love for football, basketball and the video game Need for Speed or talking about the ways in which he would brighten the room with his presence.
“I don’t know where to start. Whenever he walked into a room, he would light it up,” friend Kaitlyn Smith said. “He could light up the entire school with his smile.”
He was also called a loyal friend willing to defend his friends.
“He was a ‘big guy, big brother,’ ” Tyler Harshfield said. “He was there for everybody. Every time I was in trouble, he helped me out and when he was in trouble, I helped him out.”
And parent John Forrest, who had talked with Austin about personal difficulties in the past, told the students to remember that life is a precious but fragile gift.
“With life comes death,” he said, “and unfortunately, some are taken from us early. The only way to keep Austin alive is in your hearts.”
Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Friday at Eichholtz Funeral Home with visitation from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday.