Patterson Mill High School Principal Sean Abel fought back tears as he welcomed the family of Isaac Thomas Pfarr to the Class of 2018 graduation ceremony Tuesday afternoon, and he lauded the graduates for their support of the family after the sudden loss of their classmate during their junior year.
“We are blessed to have Isaac’s family with us today, just as we were blessed to have Isaac in our life,” Abel said.
Isaac died suddenly at home on Oct. 16, 2016. The 17-year-old junior played football for the Huskies and was a member of the Bel Air Police Department’s youth Explorer Post 9010.
His father, Robert, is a sergeant with the Bel Air Police. Robert Pfarr, his wife, Sarah, and their children, Aaron and Abigail, attended Patterson Mill’s ninth annual commencement at the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College.
More than 200 members of the senior class — the boys in black caps and gowns and the girls in aqua — crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.
One chair on the arena floor was covered by a black gown in honor of Isaac. A framed photo of the teen in his football uniform, which had been signed by the entire class, was placed nearby as a gift to his family. Abel said the gift was the students’ idea.
The principal said the Pfarrs have remained part of the Patterson Mill family.
“Please know, this is a special group of young men and women here who have continued to be, hopefully, a part of yours as you go through life,” Abel said.
“Just remember Number 57,” Abel added. “He and your family are always Huskies.”
The Pfarr family picked up the robe and signed photo after the ceremony and talked with friends and school staff. They also gathered with Isaac’s classmates and their families and posed for photos outside the arena.
“Patterson Mill was a fanatic school, from Dr. Abel on down, his staff is amazing,” Robert Pfarr said.
He said the gift from Isaac’s class is another indicator “of how wonderful the school is.”
“We really enjoyed putting [the gift] together, because it meant a lot to all of us,” graduate Mikayla King, 18, of Bel Air, said after the ceremony.
She said Isaac’s death “was really shocking,” but her class pulled together to support each other.
“The class is like a family,” she said.
King said she plans to study biology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, next year.
“I am really excited,” she said. “I’m going to miss all of my friends, but I guess I’m ready to move on to the next part of my life.”
Her mother, Marquetta King, said, “There no words” to describe her thoughts on her daughter’s graduation.
“I am just so excited and so happy,” she said. “It’s probably one of the best days of my life.”
Austin Koehn, 17, of Bel Air, plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro next year, where he will study business management and play baseball.
“It was long, but it was well worth it,” he said of his time at Patterson Mill.
His classmate, Blake Tallon, said he plans to study business and play lacrosse at Frostburg State University in Western Maryland.
“Another journey is going to start,” Tallon, 18, of Abingdon, said.
Koehn said he played football with Isaac Pfarr during their sophomore seasons.
“He was always a happy kid,” Koehn said. “If somebody was [down], he would always try to bring you up.”
He and Tallon expressed appreciation for their class’ gift to the Pfarr family.
“I think it’s cool they did such a special tribute to [Isaac],” Tallon said. “He deserved it.”
During the ceremony, the graduates heard words of wisdom from Joseph Voskuhl, president of the Harford County Board of Education, state Sen. Robert Cassilly, state Del. Susan McComas, County Executive Barry Glassman and County Councilman James McMahan.
McMahan paid tribute to the seniors who plan to join the military by asking them to stand. He then asked members of the audience who are veterans to stand and welcome them with shouts of the Marine Corps motto “semper fi” and the Army battle cry, “hoo-ah!”
The class also heard from their valedictorian, Riva Malick, and class officer Jennifer Little — the class salutatorian, Caitlin Ryan, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Little said she and her classmates were born in 1999 and 2000, at the turn of the new millenium. It was a time when many people feared the world would end because the Y2K bug would cause computer systems to crash, Little said.
The end of the world did not happen on Jan. 1, 2000, but Little noted having to decide the next chapter of one’s life at age 17 or 18 “is our own version of the end of the world.”
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“As we approach our next uncertain stage of life, you have a choice to make as to what type of person you’ll be,” Little said. “You can build a bunker in your basement and sit there terrified of the future, or you can throw an end-of-the-world party. I hope you choose the latter.”