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Graduates carry memories of Calyx in hearts

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Published:   |   Updated: May 26, 2013 at 09:39 AM
TAMPA -

When the 117 members of King High School’s International Baccalaureate program gather for graduation June 4, many will be wearing wristbands in tribute to a class member who should have been right alongside them.

She was quirky and bold. She was funny, carefree and beautiful. She was brilliant.

And she was taken from them way before her time.

They will forever remember the laugh of Calyx Schenecker, the way she looked out for others, be it her little brother, Beau, or a teacher battling cancer.

“She was the kind of person you met and said, ‘I want to be that girl’s friend,’” said Tatiana McHenry, one of the King High graduates.

So as they sit in their chairs and wait for their names to be called on graduation day at Expo Hall, their hearts will be full of love for Calyx, who died in January 2011 when police say her mother shot her and Beau.

“It’s hard because you think about the things we would be doing together at this time, how excited we would be for one another,” Tatiana says. “It’s a time when we are thinking about her more than usual. It’s hard to remember you don’t have her any more.”

“She should be graduating with us and starting her future,” says Jordan Gaudette, one of Calyx’s friends at Wharton High.

Instead, they will be starting their futures and moving on with their lives without their dear friend. They will head off to college, where Calyx, a gifted artist who loved playing with ants or lizards and adored Harry Potter, would likely have gone, too.

But always, be it in their hearts or in their minds, they will have Calyx with them.

In their bedrooms, they have pictures of her. They have gifts they received from her. They wear pins that have a photograph of her silhouetted on the beach at sunset.

That picture of Calyx is serene, so like the teenager who was always all about peace.

“We can tell she’s in a happy place,” says Taylor Griffith, another longtime friend.

Tatiana, who met Calyx as a freshman at King and who plans to attend Duke University, used her friend as the focus of her college essays.

“If anything impacted me more than losing Calyx so quickly, it was having her in my life to begin with,” she wrote. “From our interests to our personalities, something clicked from the very beginning with Calyx and me. I always thought of her as who I would be if I fine-tuned myself.

“The shyness and self-doubt that I had been fighting until high school ebbed away under the guidance of a friend who accepted me and saw my potential, even when I could not,” she added.

Some of them met Calyx as freshmen at King High. Others such as Brittany Nestor met her at Benito Middle School.

“She was so smart that she could do anything,” says Brittany, a senior at Wharton. “She always had a smile on her face. Everyone adored her.”

Taylor, who since has moved out of state, came to know Calyx through their interest in running. They were in the same gym class in seventh grade.

“We had days where we would have to go out and run on the track, and she and I would be the only ones running,” Taylor says. “We just hit it off.”

The two would make up their own language and create words that didn’t mean anything to others. One time, they painted their faces blue with eye shadow like the characters in the movie “Avatar.”

“She was quirky and she was bold,” says Taylor, who got a visit from Parker Schenecker, Calyx’s father, at her graduation ceremony last weekend. “We just always did the funniest things together.”

Jordan has fond memories from Benito of hanging out with Calyx and a couple of other girls in teacher Robert Dong’s class at lunch so they could get extra help in math.

When Dong was diagnosed with cancer, Calyx and the others would bring lunch to his house. Or if he felt up to it, they would take him bowling. They loved to do whatever they could to take care of him and brighten his day.

“Those were probably the best times for her,” Jordan says. “She really cared about him.”

The girls made him a blanket with his favorite sports team, the NBA’s Orlando Magic. After he died Aug. 27, 2011, the blanket was buried with him.

Memories of Calyx continue to comfort her friends more than two years after her death.

“I think about her almost every day. It’s hard when you think about losing someone as good as her,” Brittany says. “She would have made such a positive impact on everything she touched. She could have done so much for the world.

“It’s sad because she doesn’t deserve it.”


rshaw@tampatrib.com

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