HIGHLAND — A community is reeling after the sudden and tragic loss of 21-year-old Tyler Scheidt, who was killed in a traffic crash Wednesday morning.
Administrators and staff with the School Town of Highland are remembering a “tremendous school and community leader."
At a vigil Thursday evening outside Highland High School, friends recalled the standout student-athlete by writing their favorite memories of Scheidt on a paper handprint. The memories were going to the Scheidt family, a beloved fixture in the community.
Young people dressed in orange T-shirts from Highland Parks and Recreation, for which Scheidt had worked for three years, recalled Scheidt as someone who could light up a room with his positive but goofy personality.
“He was the kindest, goofiest guy you could imagine,” Justin Bogner said. “He’d enter a room, it was like a beam of sunshine.”
Zak Pizer and Scheidt were in a friend group that would hang out after high school.
“Every time he entered a room, he had a smile on his face, and his smile was contagious,” Pizer said. “His goofy personality was also contagious.”
Mark DeLeon, who grew up with and played sports with Scheidt, said, “He was one of my best friends, always loving, always had a smile on his face. He could turn a bad situation into something positive. We definitely need more people like him in this world.”
Katy Bedka and Scheidt had been best friends for 15 years.
“He was the best person I’ve ever met,” she said. “He never had a mean thing to say about anyone. He was so funny, everything he said made us laugh.”
Scheidt was scheduled to be the best man at the wedding in two years of Nate Matthews and Payton Foreman.
“Probably the best person I ever met,” Matthews said. “He was my first friend and my friend forever.”
Posters carried such messages as “Fly high” and “We’ll miss you, Ty.”
The Rev. Leroy Childress, senior pastor at Grace Church in Lansing, and an assistant Highland football coach, led the prayer service at the vigil. He coached Scheidt at the middle school.
Childress said he wanted those at the vigil to know “that hope is there and life is fragile. It is important to cherish one another while we can.”
The pastor added, “We don’t always know the whys in life, but we can trust in God, who does.”
Jodi Olah, an English teacher at Highland High School and family friend, said Scheidt was best friends with her son Conner.
“He was a bright light who did not have an enemy,” the mother said. “We consider all these kids like our own.”
'A true caring heart'
The Lake County Coroner’s Office identified Scheidt as the pedestrian who was struck and killed as part of a four-vehicle crash at the intersection of Indianapolis Boulevard and Ridge Road around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Three other people were hospitalized. No details on what caused the crash have been released.
School Town of Highland Superintendent Brian Smith said he was notified of Scheidt’s death Wednesday and he sent an email statement to the district community, remembering Scheidt as “a role model amongst his classmates with a true caring heart.”
“We know the impact of this loss will be felt far and wide,” he wrote. “We offer our sincerest and deepest sympathies to the Scheidt family and friends as they, and we all, grieve this inexplicable tragedy.”
The Scheidt family is deeply ingrained in Highland, Smith said. The 6-foot-7 Tyler was a standout basketball and tennis player who graduated with honors in 2019, and his younger brother, Camden, graduated this spring and is set to continue his baseball career at Wabash College. And the boys’ mother, Donna, has been an eighth-grade English teacher at Highland Middle School for the last 25 years.
In an interview Thursday, Smith said news of Tyler’s passing has hit hard.
“He lit up a room when he walked in a room, he was this beacon of positivity,” Smith said. “I think we’re just heartbroken. I think our school community is heartbroken right now and in total shock.”
Smith said he and school administrators met with district staff Wednesday afternoon, and middle school principal Justin Fronek met with Donna Scheidt’s students Thursday morning. Fronek said staff has been his largest concern since learning of Tyler’s death as fellow teachers try to process the impact of the loss on their colleague.
“The Scheidt family is beloved by the entire Highland community but obviously in a special way here at the middle school,” Fronek said. “Many of our teachers are very close with Donna, and have had Tyler and his brother, Cam, here in classes. Our staff is really close.”
Fronek worked briefly at the high school when Tyler Scheidt was a student there and said he continued to see Tyler visit with his mom at the middle school, either on his way in or on his way home from class.
“He left his mark on almost anybody that he interacted with (by) just making people smile,” Fronek said. “He was a kind, generous, caring soul and he just exuded that.”
'A great example'
Former Highland High School boys basketball coach Jordan Heckard coached Tyler and was a co-worker of Donna's at HMS.
“(Tyler) was the kid that always had a smile on his face," Heckard said. "He was the role model in our school and in our community that every coach and teacher; you wanted the youth in the community to see this is a great example of a student-athlete and just a good person.”
Heckard said Tyler was a several-year captain for the team.
“Everybody loved him, my son loved him. He looked out for everybody in the program. He was the kid that — I stumbled across some pictures yesterday … at the time my 6-year-old would have been 2, 3 years old and pictures of Tyler giving him high fives and looking out for him," Heckard said. "He was that kid, he loved people and loved to help other people. Just a kind, caring, compassionate kid. Our school was a better place with him in it. This is a heartbreaking thing."
The online fundraising company GoFundMe says two pages have been established to support the Scheidt family, one for Tyler's funeral expenses and a second with the hashtag #ScheditStrong. Those pages had raised more than $40,000 as of early Friday morning.