Students Grieve Death Of Classmate

Freshman known as 'class clown' dies in car accident

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A Payson High School freshman who died in a car accident March 9 was remembered as a happy teenager who liked to make people laugh.

The teen, 14-year-old Cory Gibbons, was killed in a one-car accident around 3 a.m. on Highway 87, just north of McDowell Road. Gibbons was a passenger in a car driven by Payson resident, Jonathan M. Lord, 18.

Gibbons' father, Charles Gibbons, 42, was seriously injured in the accident, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Lord and another passenger, Michael Wylie, 18, were treated in a Phoenix hospital and released.

DPS officers said the cause of the crash is unknown. Authorities said the car was headed south on Highway 87 near milepost 178 when the driver apparently lost control as it approached a curve north of McDowell Road. The car went off the road and hit a light pole, authorities said.

Johnny Ketchem, superintendent and principal of Tonto Basin Elementary School, where Gibbons graduated this past year, said Cory was always smiling.

"He was a happy person most of the time," Ketchem said. On Friday, after students at the school learned of Gibbons death, they decorated the fence with balloons and pictures and held an impromptu memorial.

Ketchem said the students who spoke of Gibbons remembered how he made them laugh.

School did not always seem to be Cory's top priority, Ketchem said.

"He would rather make everyone laugh than get to work," Ketchem said.

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Patrick Marshall visits the memorial for his best friend, Cory Gibbons, at the Tonto Basin Elementary School.

The Tonto Basin principal said he never saw the 14-year-old bully anyone, even though he was large in size for an eighth-grader.

"He never wanted to hurt anyone. He was the class clown. He was a jokester," he said.

Linda Cheney, Gibbons' eighth-grade teacher, fondly remembered him.

"Cory was a positive and happy person, no matter what was going on in his personal life," she said.

Counselors were at the school Friday to talk to students who knew Gibbons.

"Kids need to know how to deal with their own grief," she said. "After we heard the news, we let the kids express their grief."

Gibbons' best friend, Patrick Marshall, said Cory was "just really cool."

He said when he first heard the news that Cory had died in a car accident, he did not think it was true.

"I did not believe it happened," he said. "I thought everyone was joking."

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Cory Gibbons and his best friend, Patrick Marshall, enjoyed spending time outdoors -- hiking and rock climbing.

One of Cory's best attributes, he said, was his interest in his fellow classmates.

"He understood what other people said, and he listened to them," Marshall said.

What he will miss the most about Cory, he said, is having someone to talk to.

The two played video games together, went hiking and rock climbing.

Shelby Ahlman, whose daughter was a classmate of Gibbons, said he will be missed.

"The kid had a knack for making everyone smile," she said, adding that he could put a grin on the face of people who were having a bad day.

"He liked everyone," she said.

Services will be held for Gibbons at 11 a.m. Monday at Greenwood Memory Lawn Mortuary, 719 N. 27th Ave. in Phoenix.

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