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Shinn column: Not your average Joe

The call came last month when a passel of students were hanging out and Steve and Becky Daniel’s house.
One of Mr. Daniel’s fellow teachers at West Rowan High School wanted the cell phone numbers of Nolan and Jane Hampton. Their son, Joe, had been in an automobile accident.
“Maybe he’s OK,” Mr. Daniel said.
If he were OK, his son Sam said, he could have given the trooper the numbers himself.
Joe Hampton wasn’t all right. He died April 1 as a result of a single-vehicle crash on a rainy night. Speed and inexperience behind the wheel were a devastating combination.
During the past several weeks, his classmates at West, where he was a senior, have come up with several memorials to remember their friend.
Joe had taken Latin for two years under Mr. Daniel.
“He was an excellent student,” his teacher said Thursday. “He made all As for me.”
Joe had won a scholarship to Pembroke University.
“He was just a real nice, neat, different kind of kid,” Mr. Daniel said. “Everybody who knew him liked him. That’s what makes it so hard. He did everything he was asked.”
In Mr. Daniel’s 23 years of teaching, Joe was only his second student who has died during the school year.
“You’re numb at first,” Mr. Daniel said of hearing the news. “You just can’t believe it. It was such a loss.
“I just felt real hollow.”
Mr. Daniel’s Latin students made a memorial for Joe outside of his door. He’s since moved it to one of the many display cases near his classroom.
Students recently planted a tree for Joe. The plaque will have the Junior Classical League symbol on it.
Joe’s tombstone also has a tree on it. According to Greek mythology, Daphne was transformed into a laurel tree in trying to escape Apollo.
Joe liked that story, Mr. Daniel said.
This weekend at the JCL state competition, students will remember Joe in a moment of silence. Sam will give a short speech, and the West club will give a gift to Joe’s mom.
Thanks to donations to the JCL and the Bible Club, two students will be able to attend the national JCL convention in Fargo, N.D., next year.
Students are traveling to San Francisco this year.
“That was his graduation present,” Mr. Daniel said.
Being in the club clearly meant a lot to Joe.
According to his obituary: “Most important to Joe was being a member of the Junior Classical League, where his love of Latin was a given. Joe so loved Latin competitions. He loved his friends, his teacher, Mr. Daniel, and all their achievements.”
They loved him, too.
“I was crazy about him,” Mr. Daniel said.
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Memorials to Joe Hampton may be made to West Rowan High School Latin Club, 8050 N.C. 801 Highway, Mount Ulla, NC 28125.

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