KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) – A Fairmont High School class here installed a permanent reminder of a former student shot and killed one year ago. Wednesday, the school debuted a memorial for Ronnie Bowers, a teen hit by a stray bullet during AlterFest in September 2016.
A small, tearful ceremony included song and prayer around a tree planted in his memory in one of the school courtyards.
“Ronnie was full of life,” his mother Jessica Combs said Wednesday. “The tree is going to grow big and strong like Ronnie was supposed to.”
Bowers’ former French teacher Mary Townsend and peers from her class planned, fund raised and helped install the memorial.
They included a small plaque inscribed with his name, “love will always grow” and “on ne t’oubliera jamais” meaning “we will never forget you” in French.
Townsend explained the colorful flowers planted around the tree’s base signify Bowers’ memorable personality.
“They represent what was the best about Ronnie,” Townsend said. “His strength, his kindness, his flair.”
The French teacher fondly recalled Bowers’ sense of humor standing when she first encountered him in her class during his freshman year at Fairmont.
“From the first day I met him, he made me smile. He was full of life, full of love, full of humor. Almost everything he did made me crack up. When he came in the room he just brightened it up,” Townsend said.
Bowers’ mother, Jessica Combs attended the tribute to her son during the one year anniversary of his death.
“Coming up on one year, the grief became raw all over again and fresh all over again,” Combs said. “It means a lot that we’re able to take a tragedy and make something positive out of it.”
On September 4th, 2016, Bowers was killed by a stray bullet after an argument he was not involved in turned violent.
Wednesday’s ceremony comes on the heels of a court decision connected to the case. Tuesday a judge released two juveniles on probation. They’re both convicted of assault, menacing and tampering with evidence.
Combs was upset with the judge’s decision, but said she’s encouraged by community support like the tree garden.
“We’re still going to seek justice for Ronnie to the fullest,” Combs said. “I will not stop until I have justice for my son.”
The alleged shooter, 17 year old Kylen Gregory, awaits a murder trial in adult court.