Senior Alex O’Neal passes away in accident

By Aalia Malik — “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

To some people, these words are just lyrics from some musical. But to Angela Demchak, these words are a constant reminder her of her son, senior Alexander (Alex) O’Neal.

O’Neal passed away in a car accident on Friday, March 7.

While O’Neal was well liked by many, he often found himself in trouble. When Angela (O’Neal’s mother) got the phone call that night her first reaction was anger. After arriving at the hospital her anger melted away to shock and disbelief.

“When I went to the hospital, I had no clue what had happened. They said Alex was in an accident and his injuries were severe. That feeling when I found out (he had died) was horrible. I was a wreck on my way home,” Angela said.

Angela wants students to remember how O’Neal died making a poor decision.

“I don’t want another parent to have to go through that. So if we could help a couple kids here and there so their parents don’t have to, that would be great,” Angela said.

According to investigators he was a passenger in a car driven by a driver who had been drinking. According to Angela, extreme speed and loud music was also involved in the crash.

Angela cited teens and adults make poor decisions behind the wheel all of the time. They text, they drive too fast and they drive distracted.

“I do not want my son to be a statistic. I want something to come out of this. I want people to think. Think before they do something, about all the people they are going to hurt if something goes wrong,” Angela said.

Although she does admit that O’Neal was in trouble often, she believes he was reaching the point of turning around. He had enrolled in project REBUILD, which is an accredited high school to help youth obtain their diploma or GED while also working in construction for income.

“He wanted to go to Stark State and become either a police officer or a P.O. because he can relate to what people would be going through there. I think he would have been great at it,” Angela said.

When people hear a fellow student goes to juvenile detention, they automatically think that they have done something terrible. Though it may have sometimes been the case, it was not always the full story was told according to his mother.

“Alex had gotten into a lot of trouble but many times when he got into trouble it was because he was protecting the underdog. One time a kid was getting beat up and Alex stepped in and said ‘if you want to pick on someone, pick on someone your own size’. When he stood up for you, he stood up with everything he had. He always stood up for the underdog,” Angela said.

Frazer principal Beth Kline, who was O’Neal’s principal in elementary school and also spoke at his funeral, believes people need to look at all the sides that others have.

“Whenever people are struggling, others tend to look just at that part of them. But they need to look at them as a whole because they have beautiful gifts to offer the world,” Kline said.

Now that O’Neal is gone, friends and family try to deal with what has happened.

“It has been one of the hardest deaths to deal with in my life because Alex really was one of my best friends. When someone gets taken from you in the middle of the night unexpectedly, it hits you. And it hurts,” senior and close friend Allen Fisher said.

Teacher Sarah Rante had known O’Neal since his sophomore year and is close with his family. She is the first person Angela called after she found out what happened.

“Alex had a heart of gold. If he liked you, he would do anything for you. He had this great sense of humor and could always make anyone laugh. I remember his simile. He always had this goofy smile on his face all the time,” Rante said.

There are many great qualities O’Neal had that those close to him want to make sure people remember.

“He did not have a harmful bone in his body and he was very loyal and caring. He was one of those kids who if he ever got in trouble, he would try harder the next time. He never quit trying to do the right thing. My life is better because he was a part of it,” Kline said.

Many believe O’Neal’s passing helps remind people about how much life should be appreciated.

“You should value the people in your life. If someone means something to you, make sure they know it. Always be there for anyone you care about because tomorrow they might not be there,” Fisher said.

Angela wants to start a scholarship in O’Neal’s name. Although she is not exactly sure where she would want the money to go, she would prefer to use it for SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), auto body or a technical college.

“I do not want to give the money out to just anybody. They have to work for it, like what changes have you made to deserve it,” Angela said.

If you are interested in donating to this fund, you may visit any Chase Bank and put in your donation under the name of Angela Demchak or Alex O’Neal.

O’Neal is survived by his mother Angela Demchak, stepdad James, his father Steven O’Neal, grandmothers, Kay Rebuelta and Shirley Fulton; sisters, Maya, Marisa, Lauren and Gabrielle; brothers, Zachary, Christian, and DeAndre; niece Emma, nephews Nicholas and Dominic and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

[Updated Aug. 7, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]