Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Community remembers Pacelli student killed in crash

Pastor Joseph Fogal of St. Augustine Catholic Church hugs a family member after a memorial service Wednesday morning for Joe Lewison, a Pacelli High School senior who was killed Tuesday morning when the pickup he was driving collided with a train south of Austin.

When Austin Pacelli High School principal Mary Holtorf woke Wednesday morning, she thought it was a normal day.

Then she remembered it wasn't.

One of her students, 18-year-old Joe Lewison of Rose Creek, had been killed when his pickup collided with a train on Mower County Road 4 Tuesday morning.

Authorities believe he had tried to stop at the stop sign before the railroad crossing but slid on the icy road.

Holtorf told students during a memorial service  Wednesday at St. Augustine's Catholic Church that it will be quite a while before life feels normal again.


Friends from both Southland and Lyle joined Joe's Pacelli classmates to fill the church and show support for his family.

On Monday, Joe had sent out a "dorky" picture of his sister, Maggie, to all of the students in 9th through 12th grades.

"One of the teachers came to me and said you better talk to Joe," Holtorf said. "He understood he probably shouldn't have sent the photo and he knew it was his quick wit that had gotten him in trouble."

Holtorf wasn't surprised that Joe was the first student to figure out that students could e-mail the entire student body.

"He wanted to reach out to everyone and he did," Holtorf said.

Holtorf said Joe was big in size, but never used it to bully other students.

"He was one of those people you knew wouldn't put you down," Holtorf said. "The kids are going to remember the good things he did."

The teenager was infamous for being late to class, but Holtorf said Joe always had a good reason.


"For me this is too early for Joe," Holtorf said. "But this is not our time, it's God's time and we have to rely on that faith."

She encouraged students to talk to their teachers and each other.

"It's good to talk, to get things out and feel what you are feeling even if you don't want to," Holtorf said.

She told the students it's not a time to turn away from God.

"We're a small family and we'll grieve together," she said.

Joe's death came exactly four months to the day before graduation.

The Rev. Joe Fogal said Joe's death is a reality that most young people never have to face.

"Sometimes we think that if we can find the magic word, we can make the pain less, but that isn't the case," Fogal said. "It will take time."

What To Read Next
Get Local