Troy church bell tolls to honor teen who lost life to drunken driver

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published November 28, 2017

 These crosses and bell at St. Augustine Lutheran Church honor the memory of Athens High School senior Jeremy St. Cyr, who was killed by a drunken driver days before graduation in 1997.

These crosses and bell at St. Augustine Lutheran Church honor the memory of Athens High School senior Jeremy St. Cyr, who was killed by a drunken driver days before graduation in 1997.

Photo provided by Franklin Dohanyos

TROY — Athens High School senior Jeremy St. Cyr and his friends were in the Chicago area for a weekend of fun days before graduation in 1997. 

A drunken 40-year-old driver struck the car they were in, which was stopped at a tollbooth north of Chicago, killing St. Cyr and injuring the other passengers. 

The boys had traveled to the Six Flags Great America amusement park. They’d had dinner at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament and were headed back to their hotel when they made a wrong turn and had to double back. 

“None of the kids had any alcohol,” said Jeremy’s father, Richard St. Cyr. 

To celebrate his life, Richard St. Cyr and his wife, Debbie, installed crosses and an antique school bell at their church, St. Augustine Lutheran Church in Troy, 20 years ago. The timbers were showing age, so they recently rebuilt them and painted the bell bright red, the color for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which Richard St. Cyr has been involved with since his son’s death. He’s been on sentencing panels for drunken drivers, in which people impacted by a drunken driver are part of the sentencing process. 

The St. Cyrs and church members rededicated the crosses and bell at the church Nov. 19. 

“The church, the church community in general, carried us,” Richard St. Cyr said. 

Jeremy St. Cyr had been accepted to Michigan State University. His father describe him as “very kind and generous.” 

He said his son would stay after school, commandeer a classroom and tutor other students in that day’s math lesson. 

“We lost a good one,” Richard St. Cyr said. “He was a giving child. He had a lot of friends.” 

Jeremy St. Cyr was employed at a superstore, and he once got in trouble for helping an employee with special needs to eat instead of attending to other duties, Richard St. Cyr said. 

Richard St. Cyr hopes the bell and crosses will raise awareness about the dire consequences of drinking and driving. 

“Our goal is to help people make better decisions,” he said. 

Sue Strong, the office administrator for Michigan’s MADD organization, said that so far in 2017 there have been 300,000 drunken driving incidents in the U.S. and 10,497 deaths from drunken driving incidents, which is an average of 29 deaths every day or one death every 50 minutes, Strong said. So far this year, there have been 290,000 injuries from drunken driving incidents. 

Strong works with victim impact panels across the state. 

“Our panels have live speakers that talk about their lives prior, during and after the crash,” Strong said. “It’s heartbreaking.

“It’s 100 percent preventable,” Strong said of drunken driving tragedies. “Have plan B. Their lives (intoxicated drivers) are precious, too.” 

For more information about MADD, visit MADD.org.  

Call Staff Writer Terry Oparka at (586) 498-1054.