Classmates don hats in memory of fire victim


Young Joe Rector's black baseball cap, with YAMAHA embroidered on the front in yellow, didn't stand out at Stoneleigh Elementary, where about half of the kids who walked through the school's halls and attended classes sported baseball-type caps of all colors.

But Joe's hat had belonged to John Christian Grothmann, the 9-year-old Stoneleigh fourth-grader who died when fire swept through his Regester Avenue home early Sunday.

Along with about 300 other Stoneleigh students, 10-year-old Joe wore a hat to school yesterday to honor John, who loved to collect and wear hats.

A "hat day" to honor John was suggested by a parent, according to principal Shirley Tepper. Children were told through a school announcement that they would be permitted to wear hats to school for one day if they wished to pay tribute to John.

"I traded him a batting glove and some candy for this," said Joe, as he touched the brim of his cap. "I'm glad I have it, to remember him with something."

John's favorite hat, according to classmates, was a Syracuse Lacrosse cap, which 9-year-old Brendan Anderson called John's pride and joy."

Tepper said that her students have adjusted well to the death of their schoolmate, and she congratulated the efforts of the county's crisis intervention team that visited the school earlier this week.

"They did such a good job," she said.

John was killed in the fire that also critically injured his brother, Bob Curtis Grothmann, 22. Fire officials have ruled the blaze accidental but have not determined the cause.

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