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Friday, February 29th, 2008

Life comes to an end

By Margie Wuebker
Brian Hoyng faced life with a smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Although a freak accident robbed him of the ability to talk, the looks that crossed his face spoke volumes.
Hoyng, the 43-year-old son of Louie and Dorothy Hoyng, 504 W. Fayette St., Celina, died early Thursday morning at Celina Manor Nursing Home from complications of being struck by lightning 27 years ago. Family members were at his bedside when the end came.
"I always considered Brian a lover and not a fighter," Dorothy says, wiping tears with a damp tissue as a steady stream of relatives and friends come to the house to bestow comforting hugs, deliver plates of food and share special memories. "I think he showed all of us what a fighter he truly was."
More than two decades have passed since the stormy day - Sept. 14, 1981 - when the then high school junior headed to the school bus stop a block away. Lightning struck around 7:30 a.m. as he and another teen waited under a nearby tree.
According to newspaper accounts, first responders were unsure whether lightning hit him directly or the tree first. A green and white tennis shoe, which the Hoyngs have inscribed with Brian's initials as well as the date and time of the accident, bears a gouge inside the back heel and a small hole at the side. Lightning also tore through a portion of his green and white tube sock.
Emergency medical personnel performed CPR all the way to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater. The teenager hovered between life and death for weeks at St. Rita's Hospital in Lima. Fortunately, his companion was not injured as seriously and returned home in a matter of days.
A breathing tube, a feeding tube and a wheelchair became part of everyday life for Brian, who had earned accolades as a member of the Celina swim and dive team.
While classmates finished high school and headed to college or work, Brian attended Cheryl Ann Programs for the developmentally disabled and settled into daily life at Celina Manor.
"Brian was blessed with three families," Dorothy says as her husband nods in agreement. "He was part of our family, the Cheryl Ann family and the Celina Manor family. He touched a lot of lives in his quiet, ornery way."
Jean Garman, the current Cheryl Ann Adult Day Services supervisor, recalls Brian being one of the first clients she worked with after joining the staff in January 2000.
"I was struck by his calmness, happiness and his sense of humor," she says. "His smile and the sparkle in his eye conveyed far more than words. He was an inspiration to everyone who came into contact with him and quietly went about showing that a person can deal with anything that comes along in life."
Superintendent Mike Overman echoes the same sentiments, adding that Brian loved to watch swim and dive team members practice. Seated in the wheelchair with special adaptations for neck support, he became engrossed in the activity as if it was him leaving the diving board and splashing into the water below. Each year the boy and girl compiling the most points in team competition receive awards named in his honor.
"His mom and dad are such incredibly dedicated people," Overman says. "I don't think a day went by that they didn't spend time with Brian."
Dorothy went to the nursing home each morning Monday through Friday to make sure her son was ready for the Cheryl Ann bus and went back each afternoon for his scheduled return. She and Louie visited in the evenings and arranged weekend outings.
"Brian loved to go for drives," she says. "We would drive all over the place looking at buildings under construction. Some people considered us unofficial inspectors."
Brian's health and strength steadily declined over the past year to a point where outings became impossible.
"The doctors told us his central nervous system was shutting down," Louie says. "One thing after another went wrong and Hospice was called in late November."
Family members sat beside his bed during the past weeks telling him God had a swimming pool with a 25-foot high diving board and a pair of Speedos waiting in heaven.
"I guess he hung on because it wasn't finished yet," Dorothy says. "People tell us Brian traded his wheelchair for a pair of wings. I imagine he's up there running around, swimming and eating burgers and pizza -all the things he couldn't do down here. Oh Lord, heaven will never be the same."
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