Sara Reder lingered longer than most following the memorial service on Wednesday, Feb. 19, taking extra time to reflect on her friend, Luke Warbeck.
Reder, a Boonton High School senior, thought back of all the good times she and Warbeck, who was killed in a tragic accident along with his father, Jon, a year earlier, had while growing up in Lincoln Park.
It was an extremely emotional day for Reder as well as the students and staff as Warbeck and Elijah Rodriguez, who passed away on May 9, 2019, were remembered during the service in the senior courtyard after school.
“I think the ceremony was nice,” Reder said. “It was good closure.”
Mr. Klebez, the principal, opened the ceremony with a moment of silence. He then spoke about Luke and Elijah, saying “Not a day goes by when I don’t remember those two.”
“They were two beautiful lives…” Mr. Klebez said, his voice trailing off.
He went on to tell those who had gathered that “We are always here for you. I look at you as my family.” Mr. Klebez urged those who graduate “to come back and visit us.”
Reder became acquainted with Warbeck when she was in first grade through his cousin, Lexi Elefante. The trio spent much time together, having Nerf wars, making funny videos and going swimming.
“We had so much fun,” Reder recalled. “We hung out a lot together because Lexi lived right next door to Luke’s family.”
Jody Oliveri, a member of the BHS fine arts department, felt the tribute was “beautiful.”
“The ceremony in the courtyard was a beautiful tribute for the lives our BHS family lost last year,” Oliveri said. “The silent atmosphere with all of our students and staff together, all thinking the same thing, and remembering Luke and Elijah’s impact on the hearts of everyone they met. BHS will never be the same without them.”
Taner Suleman, who knew Rodriguez since preschool, referred to his classmate, a Boonton resident, as “an amazing kid.”
“It was touching,” Suleman said of the service. “I think of Elijah every day. He was a good soul.”
A tree will be planted in the spring to honor the memory of the boys, whose lives ended way too soon. A rock garden with stones bearing inspirational messages and remembrances will be at the base of the tree.
Two plaques, which rested on a ring of rocks, will be incorporated into the permanent memorial.