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Community mourns death of student

Amanda Holt Miller
Western Garfield County Staff

PARACHUTE “Joe Cain, an eighth-grader at St. John Middle School, died Wednesday night following stomach surgery complications.

Cain was transported to the Children’s Hospital in Denver, where he arrived at about 5 p.m. in stable but critical condition, according to a letter Garfield County School District No. 16 sent home to parents Thursday. Cain died at about 7:20 p.m.

Cain’s mother, Deb Cain, is a counselor at Bea Underwood Elementary School.



“She has been the rock that everyone could turn to in school,” said parent Monique Speakman. “Now it’s our turn to become the family’s shoulder to lean on.”

District 16 announced in its letter that classes will be canceled on the day of Joe Cain’s funeral, which is not yet determined.



A football game between St. John Middle School and Glenwood Springs Middle School was also canceled Thursday night.

“Joe, No. 82, plays for us … played,” St. John Principal Scott Pankow said. “The football team got together today and decided there are more important things right now. The impact on our building has been huge. Joe and his family are a big part of the community.”

Counselors from Colorado West Mental Health, Whiteriver Counseling, Mountain board of cooperative educational services, YouthZone, Garfield County School District Re-2 and Roaring Fork School District Re-1 visited the area Thursday to meet with students and teachers at all of the district schools. Counselors will also be available today and by request next week.

“The focus and the goal today was not on academics, but on school community,” Pankow said Thursday.

Susan Farrell, a crisis clinician at Colorado West, said many students came in individually and in groups.

She said the sudden death of a beloved peer upset students, who felt like they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, who are angry with the seeming unfairness of it and who have lost their own senses of security.

“We help them process what they’re feeling,” Farrell said. “That might be sadness, anger, guilt, numbness at first.”

“Joe was one of our office aids,” Pankow said. “He had a great sense of humor. He was always smiling, always positive. His friendships had no bounds ” even high school kids and elementary kids. It’s a sad day.”


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