A 2017 North Harford High School graduate, who never let the heart defect he was born with hold him back, was killed Monday morning in a car accident in Baltimore County.
Winfield Berrell Jr., better known as "Win," "really was a good kid, a great kid," North Harford Principal Colin Carr said Thursday. "I felt like he had his head on straight and was headed in the right direction in life."
Win was driving south on Manor Road at 6:22 a.m. Monday in a 1987 Dodge Omni when, for unknown reasons, the vehicle crossed the double yellow center line and hit a Ford F150 pickup truck that was heading north on Manor Road, according to a report posted on the Baltimore County Police Department's website.
Police said they believe Win was on his way to work. Win's father, Winfield Berrell Sr., was taking the same route and came upon the accident, Cpl. Shawn Vinson, spokesman for Baltimore County Police, said.
Win was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the pickup, William E. Fedler Jr., 37, was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which meant he had two chambers in his heart instead of four, according to a public service announcement he did for the American Heart Association when he was 16.
"The left side of his heart doesn't exist," his mom, Melissa Lee Berrell, says in the video, which can be viewed on YouTube.
Berrell Sr. says he and his wife were given several choices: take him to one of a number of hospitals "to be a guinea pig or take him home and let him die."
They chose the former and Win was treated at Nemours/duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.
He had open heart surgeries on the first day of his life and again at three months, 13 months, 22 months and 10 years old.
"There's been a lot of long nights with prayer, next to that bedside just not knowing what tomorrow is going to be," Berrell Sr. says in the video.
"From that first day we knew that we had to make him as strong as possible because he needs to have the physical strength to get through all these surgeries," he said.
Win's parents, both athletic, promoted exercise from a young age, and that's "one of the reasons he's done so beautifully," one of his doctors, Dr. Gina Baffa, said in the video.
"He rides dirt bikes, skis, swims, dives. I have a picture of him in the pool with my husband throwing him high in air and coming down to splash in the water just like the other kids, with his water wings on," Melissa Berrell recalls in the video.
"Finish high school, top of the class, college, marriage, a long life, whatever God gives him, I don't have a clue," Berrell Sr. said about his son's future. "I'm not going to worry about his end game, I'm going to enjoy today."
As principal, Carr only knows most students by sight, not by name.
Win was different, he said. The two would often banter back and forth in school either in the hallways or when Win stopped in the office.
"He'd always have witty comments that when I'd walk away would always leave a smile on my face," Carr said.
Carr called Win a kid "who went above and beyond" in school and said it would continue throughout Win's life.
He was involved in a lot of activities at school, Carr said.
Win played on the golf team at North Harford.
"Win was a member of the North Harford golf team for four years. He was an amazing young man," Hawks golf coach Nick Panos said. "We will miss his beautiful smile, his incredibly positive attitude and his wonderful kindness. He was a very special young man and he will be missed terribly."
He was also a member of the tennis team and was manager of the varsity baseball team. He was involved with the Drama Club and was head of the technical crew. He was a member of the Future Millionaire Club and Mock Trial Team and received the School Service Award, according to his obituary at www.mccomasfuneralhome.com.
He helped at Calvary Baptist Church in Bel Air with the AWANNA program, was a member of 4-H and a camp counselor and loved skiing in the Rockies and couldn't wait to try the Alps, according to his obituary.
In the spring, Carr said, Win was named Mr. North Harford, a "big deal" at the school.
The competition of talents of sorts, some singing, some magic, "more like a variety performance" is open to senior males. The entrants are narrowed down to eight to 10 who "compete" during a schoolwide performance; students vote by the loudness of their applause.
"It's a lot of fun, nothing too serious, but it's a big deal to be crowned Mr. North Harford," Carr said.
"He contributed in many ways to school. He pretty much did it all, contributing to the overall school culture," Carr said. "It was really a genuine shock to hear the news."
Carr said he talks to the students before graduation about moving on in life, making good choices, being good citizens.
"He was one of those kids, I didn't have any concerns he wouldn't do anything but those things," he said. "It's awful news to get, especially so close to just graduating and looking for a time in your life of moving on and doing bigger and better things."
Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.