Paul Laurence Dunbar students and community members paid tribute Monday night to a 15-year-old sophomore who died unexpectedly last Wednesday.
More than 1,000 people congregated in the high school’s dimly lit gymnasium to remember Star Ifeacho with candles organized in the shape of a star and speeches from people like Scott Chalk, his basketball coach.
“He was a terrific young man,” said Chalk, while a slideshow of photos of Ifeacho played behind him.
Ifeacho died after collapsing in the high school’s locker room during open gym, according to the Fayette County coroner’s office.
The athletic trainer provided emergency care, including CPR and the use of the AED (automated external defibrillator), while 911 was called, Fayette schools Superintendent Manny Caulk said in a news release. When paramedics arrived, they took over and transported him to the hospital.
At the vigil, Beaumont Middle School announced that it would be retiring Ifeacho’s number 13 jersey.
The only member of the Ifeacho family at the vigil was his godfather John Logan, who brought with him a framed basketball offer letter from Wisconsin’s Carroll University.
Ifeacho’s mother, Peace Azuatalam, released the following statement through family spokesman Charles Main, who is also the communication director for Kentucky Education Association, where Azuatalam works.
“Our family would like to thank the community for the overwhelming support. All of the acts of kindness and donations have been very humbling to us,” Azuatalam said. “Star touched so many lives that we weren’t even aware of. He was very proud to call Lexington home and always felt love and supported by so many people here. We lost our son and brother way too soon. We still do not know the cause of his untimely death, but know that we will seek answers and will work to make sure that if possible no one else has to endure this type of tragedy in the future.”
The vigil concluded with Boys II Men’s “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” and a prayer. The audience was then invited to sign banners honoring Ifeacho. One student who remembered Ifeacho fondly was Jaurice Hollingsworth, 16. The two met when Ifeacho was in the 6th grade.
“Star was always a kid you could joke around with,” Hollingsworth said. “If you were going through a tough time, he would be there to cheer you up with laughter and his smile.”
Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso