Brian Sismour doesn’t want to be at the place he goes nearly every day.
“I wish none of us were here, but we are here,” Sismour told friends and family Sunday as he stood by the grave of his 14-year-old son Alex Sismour behind St. Peter Church at 35777 Center Ridge Road in North Ridgeville. “We have no choice.”
A year ago today, Alex was fatally struck by a van while riding his bicycle with friends across state Route 57 from East Broad Street. Alex was the last to cross and the driver, who tried to avoid hitting him, was not charged.
Brian Sismour said he used to visit the grave twice per day on Saturdays — the day Alex died — at the time he was struck and about an hour later when he was pronounced dead. Sismour said his wife, Doreen Sismour, convinced him to visit just once per day. When he cannot visit the grave while traveling as a salesman for U.S. Bank, Sismour said he looks at an image of it and his son on his phone.
Alex is remembered as, “The boy who brought a community together,” on his gravestone. It is a tribute to the way the community has rallied around the Sismour family and their efforts to remember their son.
“You guys have gotten us through this,” said Doreen Sismour, her voice quavering with emotion. “We thank every one of you.”
Neighbors paid for Alex’s likeness to be engraved in a stone near the Sismour home on Calista Drive and about $16,000 has been raised in his name through about 30 fundraisers.
The money includes $4,000 for scholarships that will be given out until 2016 when Alex would’ve graduated from North Ridgeville High School where he was a freshmen. The remainder has been donated to academic and athletic programs at Wilcox Elementary School, North Ridgeville Middle School and North Ridgeville High School as well as St. Peter School, the St. Peter CYO and North Ridgeville youth sports programs.
As a guard on the Rangers middle school basketball team, coaches recalled Alex never saw a shot he didn’t like to take, his father said. Alex’s aggressive style — he was also an offensive guard on the football team — was part of his personality, which his father described as “crazy” “gregarious” and “headstrong.”
“He marched to his own tune,” Brian Sismour said. “He did to the very end.”
Yet Sismour said his son also had a compassionate side that he learned about from Alex’s classmates after his death. One girl told of him of Alex coming to help her up after a fall on ice when no else would. Another girl recalled Alex purposely falling on the sidewalk to keep her from being teased after she had fallen.
“There was a softer side of Alex, too,” Brian Sismour told the approximately 100 people at the memorial which included balloons being released into the sky. “We’re starting to learn that from all of you folks sharing your stories and memories.”
Brian Sismour said coping with grief by taking it “one day at a time” is not a cliché. Visiting colleges with their 18-year-old son, Andrew Sismour, a freshman at Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, helped take their mind off their loss. The Sismours also have attended meetings of the Cleveland branch of The Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents whose children have died.
Brian Sismour said the next year will be difficult. While friends and relatives have been very supportive, he knows they have to move on with their lives.
Brian Sismour said he hopes Alex’s death will make them appreciate the preciousness of life and that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. He said the Sismours are a “hugging type of family” but they will never get to hug Alex again. He urged the parents and children in attendance not to by shy about hugging one another.
“You never know when you won’t get that next time to do it,” Sismour said.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.