— Joshua "Josh" Evan Hamer, 15, the John Carroll School student who died in a car accident in Churchville Thursday morning, was remembered during services Tuesday morning as a one with a "bright spirit, compassion for others" and a "blazing fastball."
Josh, who lived in North East, was a sophomore and member of the baseball team at the Bel Air private school.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held in Josh's honor at 11 a.m. at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church at 150 S. Queen St. in Rising Sun. Burial was to follow at Brookview Cemetery in Rising Sun.
Prior to the service, the funeral procession traveled a short distance along Queen Street from R.T. Foard Funeral Home, escorted by Cecil County Sheriff's Office deputies, to the church.
The casket was removed from the hearse, borne by Josh's teammates and his brothers.
Other John Carroll baseball players, led by head coach Darrion Siler, formed an honor guard and raised their bats as the casket was brought in.
Josh's relatives walked behind the casket.
"I've been doing this for 31 years," Gary Meyerl, the John Carroll minister, said as he observed the procession from across the street. "This has been the hardest four days of my professional career."
The funeral Mass, led by church pastor, the Rev. Jay McKee, and Deacon Luke Yackley, lasted about an hour and a half.
The service included remarks from Yackley, Josh's close friends and his coach.
McKee spoke about "a tragic and all-too quick end to a young life and a loving soul," telling family members assembled in the church sanctuary that "words cannot describe the depth of your pain."
"By all rights you [young people] should be in school today, and we should be working, but we're not," he said. "We have to be here together."
McKee talked about Josh's life; his family moved from his birthplace, Denton, Texas, when Josh was still a baby and lived in the Philadelphia area, Delaware and finally settled in Maryland when Josh was 5 years old.
McKee noted Josh remained a fan of the Texas Rangers baseball team and Dallas Cowboys NFL team. He was a sophomore at John Carroll, but colleges such as the University of Alabama, Duke University and UCLA had been looking at him to play for their teams.
He encouraged people to support Josh's parents and siblings, both physically and in prayer, "especially in the coming days when the silence hits."
Natalie Ginski, whose family has lived next door to the Hamer family since she was a child, shared many memories of growing up with Josh and his siblings and talking, going camping, playing sports, daring each other to do things such as jumping out of trees, even playing with Barbie dolls with Josh.
"The little things in life that are taken for granted are the ones that matter the most," she said.
Natalie said she knew the Barbie story would embarrass Josh, but she recalled how he would help pick out clothes for the dolls and build a Barbie dream house.
"He was a softie with a huge heart," she said.
One of Josh's brothers, Jacob, got up to speak when mourners were invited to share their thoughts.
"As a person, I've always looked up to him," Jacob said.
Jacob noted his brother did not live a long life, but he lived it to the fullest.
"Josh will always be with us," Siler, his coach, said. "He has touched so many of us with his bright spirit, his compassion for others, his smile."
People slowly filtered into the small brick church along South Queen Street before the service, including some who knew Josh through John Carroll and others who knew him prior to his days at high school.
"We were friends in middle school; we used to hang out a lot," Aidan Sloman, 16, of Rising Sun, said as he and a group of young people approached the front entrance.
Aidan, who attends Rising Sun High School, said he and Josh had been friends when they attended Rising Sun Middle School.
"He always had a smile on his face, always wanted to have a good time," Aidan said.
"If our student body had their way, the entire student body of 670 students would be here today," Meyerl said.
He noted the church does not hold that many people, so "the baseball team and some of his closest friends are going to be here to represent our community."
Josh was in the front passenger seat of a vehicle when it collided with another car around 7:45 a.m. March 2 at the entrance to a Royal Farms store on Route 22, according to Maryland State Police. He later died at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
The accident remained under investigation this week and an official report was not available, State Police at the Bel Air Barrack said Monday.
A vigil for Josh, who also played football at John Carroll, was held on the school's baseball field Thursday night, just a few hours after his death.
School officials estimate 150 to 200 people attended, including fellow students, their families and school staff and their families.
During the vigil, there were remarks and prayers from school President Richard O'Hara, Josh's classmates and baseball teammates, Ari Stakias, Ryan Archibald and Luke Zagurski, as well as Meyerl.
Meyerl remembered Josh's "blazing fastball, his courageous spirit and his kind heart."
"For those of us here seeking to cope with Josh's death, may we find solace in the promise of God's love," Meyerl said.
Members of Josh's family and his friends hugged each other and sobbed. Others expressed shock at learning of his sudden death. The school canceled classes Friday, but made grief counselors available that day for students who wished to talk with them.
During the vigil, a poster with pictures of Josh in his football and baseball uniforms was placed on the fence in front of the third base dugout. The poster was surrounded by black, white and gold balloons – the school colors – a baseball uniform in a frame, candles, and bunches of flowers. More candles arranged in the form of Josh's initials, J.H., were on the pitcher's mound.
"He was a confident guy, everything he did, he took head on ... he was one of those guys everybody looked up to," Ryan Archibald, Josh's teammate, said after the vigil, as he was surrounded by fellow players.
Ryan, a 17-year-old junior from Churchville, said he expects the baseball team will rally together as their regular season begins later this month.
"For me, personally, it puts things in perspective," he said.
Steve Teter, the John Carroll athletic director and the varsity baseball coach through the 2016 season, said he recruited Josh to play baseball at John Carroll.
"He was just one of those, he was an absolute lover of the game," Teter said Friday. "He loved baseball, he was a worker. He put in a ton of time, during the offseason and just really wanted to get better at baseball and he was progressing."
"He certainly was going to be a part of their varsity team this year and he was planning on leaving for the spring trip down to Georgia next week," continued Teter, who is not coaching baseball this season. "He was going be one of the pitchers on the staff that they were going to be looking for as a young guy. He's definitely going to be missed in many ways.
Teter said Josh's unexpected death is "just another reminder of the suddenness in things can happen and the fragile life that we all lead."
"I think that certainly hit pretty hard," he said.
"As a father myself, you can't help but put yourself in that position and deal with the unimaginable and how his family is dealing with it, but I've just been incredibly impressed — just blown away by the level of support from other schools," Teter said. "From all of our students, from all of our programs, everybody that's been involved, it certainly doesn't heal anything but it's been incredibly helpful during this rough time."
Josh was born on April 2, 2001, in Denton, Texas, the son of James Eric Hamer and Jennifer Leigh (Abbey) Hamer.
In addition to his parents, Josh is survived by his maternal grandmother, Cheryl Abbey; paternal grandmother, Zoeann Jenkins; paternal grandfather, William E. Hamer Sr.; three brothers: Jacob Edward Hamer, Jason Elliot Hamer and Justin Eric Hamer; four uncles: Jason Abbey, Justin Abbey, William E. Hamer Jr. and Todd E. Hamer; three aunts: Donna Merlino, Karen Hamer and Tami Vishio; and several cousins and extended family members.
Contributions in Josh's memory can be made payable to "Joshua Hamer Memorial Baseball Scholarship" and sent R.T. Foard Funeral Home, P.O. Box 248, Rising Sun, MD 21911.
Aegis staff member Randy McRoberts contributed to this report.