Stoneleigh families mourn child's death


It is the children that Stoneleigh worries about now.

Residents of the tightly knit community along Baltimore County'southern boundary with the city were shocked when fire swept through a home on Regester Avenue early Sunday, killing 9-year-old John Christian Grothmann and critically injuring his brother, Bob Curtis Grothmann, 22.

As word of the fire spread yesterday, neighbors tried to comfort their children, who had ridden skateboards, played baseball and traded baseball cards with John, the youngest of five Grothmann siblings.

Neighbors also launched a clothing and food drive to help the family and flocked to the neighborhood school and church for support.

Mary Margaret Prahme said her son Patrick, 9, gathered the baseball cards and other toys and collectibles he had traded with his friend John and reminisced.

Mother and son have talked about John's death, but "there is only so much you can say," Mrs. Prahme said.

Ryan Jordan, another of John's friends, pasted a pencil sketch of Garfield the cat that John had drawn on the family refrigerator, his father, Gary Jordan, said.

"He said he wanted us to keep John in mind," Mr. Jordan said. "It's been pretty rough. Right now, when he's with us or with his friends, it's not really registering. It's when he's alone that he thinks about it."

NTC At Stoneleigh Elementary School -- where John was remembered as a good student and the fastest runner in his fourth-grade class -- parents came for advice on how to discuss the death with their children.

"We're telling them that they should be ready and willing to talk about the death, and to talk about this death with their kids," said Rowland Savage, supervisor of guidance services for the Baltimore County schools who brought a team of coun

selors to the school for students and parents yesterday.

Principal Shirley Tepper said a letter went home with all 600 students yesterday telling parents the school's crisis intervention team is available for family counseling.

Sherry Jordan, one of the parents who went to the school yesterday, said that in the wake of the blaze many of her neighbors were checking smoke alarms, reviewing fire emergency plans with relatives and trying to comfort their children.

"It has a lot of people hugging their kids and just glad they have them," she said.

St. Pius X Church, where John had received first Communion in June, parishioners launched a clothing drive and opened a bank account for donations to help the Grothmanns, who lost most of their possessions in the fire.

"It's a hard thing for people to believe and it's hard to face," said the Rev. Craig Cooper. He said the church has scheduled a meeting for parents to vent their emotions and concerns at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30.

Members of the Stoneleigh Community Association are taking turns cooking for the family, and a Domino's Pizza shop on Sherwood Road has offered to deliver clothes dropped off there to the church.

Neighbors yesterday described John as "a typical kid," who enjoyed skateboarding, bicycling and video games, played basketball, baseball and soccer, liked the cartoon characters Garfield and Bart Simpson, and collected hats.

"He had tons of hats, hats from every sport," said Beth Grothmann, 22, John's sister. "He was just a typical, tree-climbing, bicycle-riding, skateboard-riding, Nintendo-playing kid, just a terrific kid."

Fire officials have ruled the blaze accidental but have not determined the cause.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete yesterday. Donations may be sent to the Grothmann Family Fund at St. Pius X Church, 6428 York Road, Baltimore 21212.

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