PORTAGE — The parents of an 18-year-old killed by a hit-and-run driver Monday said one of the most difficult things they have faced was not being able to hug or kiss their loving, energetic boy goodbye.
Joseph "Joe" Bonner, of Portage, was struck and killed about 1:30 a.m. Monday as he walked home on Hamstrom Road from a gas station in Portage.
"You go from seeing him one day, talking to him, hugging him, and then all you've got is memories, pictures," said Bonner's father, Richard Bonner.
Anyone with children should show their kids how much they're appreciated, because you never know when they'll be gone, he said.
Mother Kathryn Mullens said, "He was stolen from us."
Joe Bonner loved his family, always had time to talk to a stranger and wanted to help any way he could, his parents said. He had three sisters, two brothers and six nieces and nephews he adored.
He struggled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but recently had been working to move forward in life. His GED results are pending and was looking for a job.
"He was finally coming to where he understood the ADHA — what was going on, how to handle it," Mullens said. "It was a struggle most of his life. We're so proud of him and where he was going in life."
Joe Bonner recently moved in with his father in Portage, and they had been building a father-son relationship as adults.
"He didn't have the chance. He didn't get to experience love, college," Mullens said. "But that's what his goals were — to find a girlfriend and go to college possibly, or maybe tech school. He was a little late, but he was gung-ho."
Mullens and step-mother Debi Tenuta both described how Joe Bonner would burst out the front door whenever either of them pulled up in front of his home, happily coming down the stairs to meet them.
Tenuta visited recently, after being away because she had been sick, and Joe Bonner pushed between her and his father as they hugged so he could hug Tenuta himself, Richard Bonner remembered.
"That night, I thought he was going to bed, he told me how much he missed Debi," he said.
Richard Bonner said he later was awakened by a phone call and saw two officials at his front door, one with "coroner" written on his clothing. Richard Bonner turned away and went to find his son's room empty before returning to open the door for them, he said.
The emptiness in the house is terrible, he said.
"We've all been in shock," he said. "We can't even fathom that we're never going to see him again."
Joe Bonner walked a lot, maybe because he had so much energy, his family said. That was probably why he went to the Speedway on Hamstrom Road near the Indiana Toll Road early Monday, they said. He was last seen at Speedway about 1:23 a.m., and someone called 911 at 1:30 a.m. to report a body in the street.
Joe Bonner's family said they're struggling with the fact that whoever hit their son didn't have the decency to stop. Police have been working hard, they said.
Since Joe Bonner's death, the family has been lifted up by strangers who have reached out to tell the family they knew him. He stopped to talk to them during his walks, Mullens said.
Tenuta said Joe Bonner had been attending Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Portage with his father, and took the sermons and pastor's teachings to heart.
She found a journal is his room after his death and was surprised. "It was deep — the meaning of life. ... You have to sit and read it a couple of times," she said. "At 18, I wasn't thinking about stuff like that."
Visitation is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home, 6941 Central Ave., in Portage. A funeral service will start at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church, 6322 Portage Ave.