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Indian River student prepares to graduate after death of parents

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PHILADELPHIA — Logan A. Hand’s life is like a box of chocolates, just as his mom used to quote from the movie “Forrest Gump.”

He doesn’t know what he’s going to get.

The 18-year-old senior is fulfilling his parents’ and his own dream of graduating today from Indian River High School and going to college, but Tammy E. Hand and Robert D. Hand won’t be there to see him receive his diploma on stage.

Mrs. Hand, an Indian River bus driver, died in a car crash Dec. 14. Mr. Hand, a popular English teacher at Sackets Harbor Central School, died in February 2011 after a pulmonary embolism.

Nonetheless, when Logan is asked how he feels about graduating, he flashes a wide grin.

“Excited,” Logan said in the high school lobby. “I’m in the top 10 percent of my class, so I’m going to Jefferson Community College free for a year.”

He hopes to transfer to Clarkson University, Potsdam, and go into construction management.

He said his bright outlook, despite losing the two most important people in his life, is a result of the way his parents raised him.

“I was always taught to get things done now and worry about the rest later,” he said.

In the past year, he has been a top student and a National Honor Society inductee, attended his prom, made the tennis sectional tournament and played varsity football and track.

As an only child, he said, he has done everything his parents would have wanted.

“My dad never got to see me getting into the National Honor Society,” Logan said, then pointed to his girlfriend. “Caylin may have thought my mom hated her, but she was looking forward to seeing her in her prom dress.”

He and Caylin M. Blankenship, 16, have dated for three years.

In the past six months, he has gained an entire school as a family. His mother’s best friend, history teacher Christine R. Everett, has become his legal guardian. He has two new sisters, Meghan, 18, and Macy, 9, and a new brother, Michael, 21, and has a lot to learn about dealing with other children in the house, Mrs. Everett said jokingly.

“He went from being an only child to having two sisters and having to share a bathroom,” she said.

Logan said he easily knows every teacher at the school now. In March, students and staff pooled their funds to give Logan a class ring, a moment Principal Troy W. Decker remembers fondly.

“Logan was incredibly touched by the gesture of the school giving him his class ring,” he said. “He was quick to give his thank-yous. I remember when I handed him the ring and the look on his face. There wasn’t a dry eye in the bunch.”

Mr. Decker said Logan appreciates the support but is the most happy when giving support.

“His mom and dad were the same way,” he said. “I see so much of his mom in him.”

Varsity football coach Cory D. Marsell agreed that Logan is not one to complain about his life or seek attention.

“The thing with Logan is that he’d never ask for anybody’s help,” he said. “The one person he looked up to and cherished the most was his mother. After his mother passed, he handled it better than probably most adults would.”

He recalled Logan saying he would have to quit the football team to get a job to help his mother, who formerly was a teacher at Copenhagen Central School but was raising her son on her bus driver salary.

“He had a situation where he wanted his mom to feel like she had more money,” Mr. Marsell said.

He had some of the boys on the football team go to her house in Antwerp for a day to fix up some rooms to rent out.

Then came the fatal accident.

“The circumstances couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid, unfortunately,” Mr. Marsell said.

Other people who know him and knew his parents say they understand how Logan could remain so upbeat.

“That comes from his dad,” Sackets Harbor multimedia teacher James P. Barber said. “His dad was very positive. I knew his dad the entire time he was at Sackets.”

Mr. Barber was one of Mr. Hand’s best friends.

“He was Mr. Optimistic,” Mr. Barber said. “He would always find the best in a situation, good or bad.”

Wherever Logan got his optimism from, his guardian said, his attitude is rare. Although she knows just how much he misses his mother and her endless Forrest Gump quotes, he is able to look ahead and be successful.

“I think he can be an inspiration to others who have been down on their luck,” Mrs. Everett said.

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