Fort Loramie remembers Damian Bruns during graduation ceremony

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FORT LORAMIE — One thing was repeated most by Fort Loramie students and staff when talking about Damian Bruns: his smile.

Bruns, who died early Friday at Miami Valley Hospital after sustaining injuries in an ATV crash northwest of Versailles, was remembered as a happy and joyful person by classmates and Fort Loramie teachers and administrators during the school’s graduation ceremony on Sunday.

“He was a great kid with a big heart. Always had a smile on his face,” Fort Loramie principal Kreg Hollenbacher said after Sunday’s commencement. “He was well liked by his classmates; you could see the impact and the emotions that ran through many of their words in their eyes today. He’s just a great kid that’s gone too soon.”

Bruns was a senior at Fort Loramie and was set to graduate on Sunday. After conferring with students and counselors, Fort Loramie officials decided to continue with Sunday’s commencement, which took place the high school gym.

Hollenbacher and Fort Loramie superintendent Dan Holland spoke about Bruns in their remarks, as did several classmates.

Fort Loramie salutatorian Hallie Grillot began the ceremony by reading a letter the class wrote to Bruns, which moved many to tears.

“It wouldn’t be fair to start off the ceremony without acknowledging the fact that today is a very hard day for all of us,” Grillot said. “… This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever been assigned to. But after speaking with teachers and classmates, we thought this was the most appropriate way to start the service off.”

Grillot talked about Bruns’ joyful personality while reading the letter.

“Fun; fun was something you seemed to have a lot of, and something you brought to the room no matter the circumstances,” Grillot said. “We know you had a lot of fun planned for not only this summer, but also when you were going to be attending the University of Cincinnati this fall, which you were going to be attending with your friends to major the finance.

“But even though we all grieve the time we have left without you, we promise not to let any of those fun times go to waste. We understand more than ever that time is a valuable thing that cannot be taken for granted. So, Damian, to honor you today, we are going to accomplish the one thing you were looking forward to for so long: graduating high school.”

A few other students also remembered Bruns in their remarks. Holland, whose daughter Allyson was among Sunday’s graduates, said the community has come together as it grieves.

“Oftentimes when we face a tragedy, our response is to retreat from everyone and everything, just go and hide. In reality, we need unity to help us heal,” Holland said during his speech. “Over the past few days, I’ve seen your class and this community together. I’ve seen classmates lean on classmates for comfort, parents comfort their children.”

Hollenbacher said Fort Loramie’s students are handling the death as best as possible.

“It’s difficult. There is no script, there is no playbook for you to follow,” Hollenbacher said. “Everybody has to just handle it in the best way that’s right for them.

“And I think that the kids that spoke today, you can see the emotions are so raw, but they did it. They did a great job. I know of all our graduations it was the most difficult, and most difficult for me. So I’m really proud of how the kids responded today.”

The seat Bruns was supposed to occupy during Sunday’s ceremony was decorated with flowers, ribbon and a program.

Hollenbacher read the names of each of Sunday’s 65 graduates and listed their future plans. When he read Bruns’ name, he led a moment of silence.

During the slideshow the students prepared, a picture of Bruns holding a fish was the last thing displayed, with a caption that read, “Always Remembered.”

Bruns was a three-year letterwinner for the school’s football team and participated in track for a few years, though Hollenbacher said he didn’t this spring and was focusing on work. Many students wore a sticker with Bruns’ football uniform number (83) on their graduation caps.

Hollenbacher said Bruns was an avid outdoorsman and was a member of the school’s Outdoor Club.

“He loved to hunt, loved to fish,” Hollenbacher said. “He had a bright future ahead of him at UC. He was just a great kid, and one I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. He will be missed.”

Bruns was a standout football player for the Redskins and was named second team all-Southwest district in Division VII last fall as a linebacker; he played other positions as well.

“He made a huge impact in a lot of different ways. He was someone that that brightened everyone’s day,” Fort Loramie football coach Spencer Wells said. “It seemed like everybody knew Damian, everybody liked Damian. Great personality. Honest. Just the type of guy that that you hope you get to coach, and I’m so thankful that I got that time with him.”

While Sunday’s celebration was subdued, Hollenbacher said it was still a joyous occasion, and he, Holland and Grillot all said Bruns would have wanted it that way.

“We’re going to have some fun today celebrating all of our accomplishments, and we know that you will be with us in spirit, because you wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Grillot said while reading the letter. “We, however, will miss you for every minute of it.”

Gehret Funeral Home in Fort Loramie is handling Bruns’ funeral arrangements. Visitation will occur from 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and from 9 to 10 a.m. on Thursday. A mass of Christian burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, with interment to follow at St. Martin Cemetery in Osgood.

Reach Sidney Daily News editor Bryant Billing at 937-538-4822, or follow @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook or @TopBillingSport on X (Twitter).

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