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Cuero High School students remember classmate who drowned

By Sonny Long
May 20, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

Cheryl Perez, Jeremy Perez's mother, left, cries as she watches a PowerPoint presentation that was prepared for a memorial at Cuero high school. Justin Perez, Jeremy's 6-year-old brother, clings to his grandmother, Cathy Garibay, during the emotional presentation on Thursday.

JEREMY PEREZ SERVICES

VISITATION: 6-8 p.m., Friday, Freund Funeral Home, 213 N. Gonzales, St., Cuero.

ROSARY: 7 p.m.. Friday, Freund Funeral Home.

MEMORIAL SERVICE: 10 a.m., Saturday, First Baptist Church, 408 N. Gonzales St., Cuero.

Donations to help with burial expenses can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to the account set up under the name Catherine G. Ortiz in Memory of Jeremy Nelson Perez.

CUERO - With tears, hugs and laughter through song, scripture and music, students at Cuero High School showed their love for classmate Jeremy Perez.

A memorial service for Jeremy, 17, who drowned in the Guadalupe River on May 14, was held at the school Thursday morning as students remembered him through personal stories and letters in front of the student body in a packed gymnasium.

Melanie Guerrero read a letter she wrote after Jeremy's death.

"You are precious to us. Irreplaceable," she said. "You heard God calling your name and you answered with open arms. You will always be in our hearts. That's one place you'll never leave."

Fellow student Matt Saenz called Jeremy his best friend, some of his anecdotes drawing laughter from the assembly.

"We need to keep our heads up," Matt also told the assembled student, faculty and staff. "That's what he would want us to do. We need to think about the positives and the good memories he left us. I'll miss him a lot."

Several other friends took to the podium, remembering Jeremy.

He was recalled as fun-loving and someone who liked to dance and sing. Jeremy also had aspirations to be a police officer, one friend said.

Some touched on Jeremy's absence.

"Just looking at your empty desk kills me inside," wrote Stacy Gonzales, in a letter read for her by teacher Alicia Garcia. "We have to continue to be strong for you and your family."

Angela DeLosSantos, fighting back tears, as did all those who spoke, said Jeremy had "an amazing heart."

"I remember our first kiss," she said. "You changed my life. I never thought I would feel this much pain."

Students watched a PowerPoint presentation on a large projection screen, with photographs of Jeremy as Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" and Selena's "Dreaming of You" played.

Many students sobbed. Others cried quietly in one another's arms.

Jeremy's family sat on the front row of the gymnasium stands, they too, in tears through much of the program.

"It was beautiful, heartwarming," said Cheryl Perez, Jeremy's mother. "You could feel the love."

The service included a song by student D'Colby Green and one by members of the high school choir led by student choir director Madison Smith. Scriptures were also read.

The band drum line that Jeremy was a member also played, their passionate performance evoking a standing ovation from the crowd.

David Dominguez, Jeremy's stepfather, said the service was beneficial to the family.

"Those kids did a lot of good for us," he said. "They put so much heart, soul and spirit into it. It was wonderful to know they care. It really opened my eyes. There are some good kids at that school."

High school principal Mike Cavanaugh said the students organized and conducted the program mostly on their own. The students also raised more than $1,500 for Jeremy's family for burial expenses.

"For the kids to work through this grief, they have to do it themselves. Anything I might tell them is immaterial. It means more to all those kids when their classmates say it," Cavanaugh said.

"It's important for them to come to grips with what happened," added the principal. "For young people, sometimes death in many ways is not real. They think they are bulletproof. They don't understand how fast things can happen. And how you are here one moment and gone the next."

"It's important for them to know, it's OK to be upset. Your friends are there and feeling the same thing. It's part of the grieving process," Cavanaugh said. "As a high school family, we have to deal with the things life deals us," he said. "It's hard. You miss him. You grieve for him, and you keep on going."

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