Shane McQuiston was an avid outdoorsman full of life, good humor, love and friends.
The Wilmington Area High School sophomore was a trumpeter and euphonium player in the Greyhound marching band and had cultivated many strong and lasting relationships with his classmates.
He left the entire school and community in mourning when he drowned at age 15 as a passenger in a car that plunged into an icy Deer Creek in Pulaski Township on Jan. 4, 2013.
Friday, his family, friends and the community gathered again to remember Shane — this time to celebrate his life with a blue and gold balloon release after the Lawrence County commissioners and planners dedicated a new boat launch in his name.
A ceremonial lineup of shovels marked the groundbreaking for the McQuiston Boat Launch, a recreational and emergency access point to the Shenango River for small boats and other watercraft.
More than 200 people, including the entire high school band in uniform, stood on the Nashua Bridge in Pulaski Township and listened to Shane’s mother, Dana McQuiston, reminisce about the practical jokes and humor that Shane shared with his special group friends.
The band played his favorite songs. State, county and township dignitaries, teachers, parents, students and neighbors were there. Relatives had traveled from as far as Indiana and Philadelphia.
Dana told the crowd how Shane had his own dairy calf named Tater that he would take for walks on a leash. He would get up at 5:30 every morning and bottle-feed her, then he would take a shower and get ready for school, she said.
His sister, Kortney, who lives in Pittsburgh, said the family got a cow statue and put it at his graveside.
Shane is remembered at Wilmington with two awards. One sponsored by Deerfield Farms called the Shane McQuiston Above-and-Beyond Award goes to a teacher who is outstanding in the classroom.
The other award, sponsored by Shane’s parents, Dana and Gary McQuiston, is the Shane McQuiston Pride Award given to a high school band member. This year’s recipient is flutist Michelle Russell.
It was mentioned that Commissioner Steve Craig came up with the idea of naming the boat launch after Shane.
“I’m speechless,” Dana said after the event. “When Steve came to the office to tell me, I made him cry.”
When Dana told her husband, Gary, of the boat launch dedication, it was the first time she had seen him smile since their son’s death, she said.
“Shane would have loved this,” she said. “He loved to fish and hunt.”
From the time Shane turned 12 until he was 15, he had gotten four bucks.
“This is Shane here,” his mother said. “He loved to be outdoors.”
It’s especially nice because the boat launch area is right behind the McQuiston family home on Garner Road, she said.
The county already has two other boat launches — the Millennium on the Shenango River at King’s Chapel Road in Neshannock Township and the Bevington on the Beaver River in Wayne Township.
Commissioner Dan Vogler said the county is negotiating with property owners of two more potential boat launch sites, on the Mahoning and Shenango rivers.
The county also intends to purse a state water trail designation, he said.
He credited Amy McKinney, county director of planning and community development, and Doniele Russell, deputy director, for the work they put into planning the McQuiston launch and the groundbreaking ceremony.
“They put countless hours into this project,” he said.