West Rowan students remembered at double funeral
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Those who knew Terry Johnson and Cody Rives say they’re the lucky ones.
Even as they mourned the loss of the two West Rowan High School students at a funeral Saturday, they said knowing Johnson and Rives has made their lives better and happier.
“Those of you who didn’t know them like we did, you missed out,” said George McCoy, a fellow ROTC cadet with Johnson. “Not many people have the ability like they had to make other people happy.”
Terry Tyrelle “Ty” Johnson, 15, and Cody Scott Rives, 16, had just finished their first day of their sophomore year Monday when they were killed in a car accident. The Mazda Miata convertible driven by Rives crossed the center line at the Second Creek bridge on Sherrills Ford Road and collided with a Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Family members, friends, classmates and teachers of Johnson and Rives gathered Saturday in the West Rowan auditorium for a joint funeral.
Before the service, McCoy and Peter Woodward helped fold the flag that flew half-mast for the visitation. McCoy said Rives was laid back and could joke about anything. He said Johnson was humble, and both would always be there when you needed them.
Katherine Carter, another ROTC member, said both Johnson and Rives were “really good kids” who knew how to cheer people up if they were having a bad day.
“They were some of the best people I’ve gotten a chance to know in my life,” Carter said. “I’m going to miss them, because they made a lot of things easier just by being there. … I just want to say thank you to both of their families for giving us those two wonderful people,” she said.
Rives was the son of Janie Bell and David Rives. Johnson was the son of Shannon Dawn Johnson Ikard and Terry Ikard.
Johnson’s uncle, David Ikard, said Johnson dearly loved his parents, his grandparents, his brothers and the rest of his family. Ikard’s son — Johnson’s cousin — looked up to him as a role model.
“We had 15 precious, precious years with an extraordinary individual,” Ikard said. “As much as I mourn the loss, I celebrate the life, because it was indeed a life well lived.”
Steve Combs, pastor of Milford Hills United Methodist Church, led the auditorium in prayer and read from the Bible. He then spoke about Cody, whose parents attended the church.
“At an early age, Cody loved cars,” Combs said. “He loved to paint pictures, just like all kids do. Cody loved cars. He knew everything about his iPod.”
The audience laughed as he repeated, “Did I say that Cody loved cars?”
Combs encouraged people to enjoy life’s “precious moments” and pay attention to its many choices.
“I’m sorry I didn’t know Tyrell. He sounds so wonderful,” Combs said. “It’s so wonderful to have known Cody a little bit, because he was so full of wonder.”
• • •
Before the football game between West Rowan and Salisbury high schools Friday evening, several student groups from both schools paid homage to Rives and Johnson.
The Salisbury High School band wore T-shirts with the words “We Respect,” with the “W” and “R” highlighted in blue for West Rowan. The paper banner that Salisbury’s football team ran through when taking the field read, “We respect U. SHC cares.”
The two schools are county rivals and would normally taunt each other at football games.
Four West Rowan band members played a chorus of Amazing Grace on their mellophones before the game.
And the West Rowan Crazies, a student-led cheering section, held a food drive in memory of Rives and Johnson. They dressed in red, white and blue in honor of Johnson, who was a part of the school’s ROTC program.
Rives had a dream to one day be able to feed children who were without food, his family said. Classmates collected cans of food in boxes and planned to take them to High Rock Community Church’s Salisbury-East campus, where Rives was a part of the youth ministry.
Rives’ youth pastor, Torrey Morgan, spoke at the funeral service Saturday.
“Recently in his life, God’s been doing wonderful things,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, we can learn something from a tragic thing like this.”
Al Simmons, pastor of Highland Acres Church of Christ in Statesville, said people can learn through this loss how fragile and brief life is.
Simmons, who knew Johnson but not Rives, said the boys also can teach people about loving those who are different.
“Here are two people who don’t look a lot alike,” Simmons said. “They teach us today that we need to not look on the outside and make judgments… but look at the inside and push away harsh ugliness. The deaths of these young people don’t have to be in vain.”
The three pastors agreed that they believe both boys are still alive in heaven, and their legacy will live on through the ones they leave on earth.
• • •
Carla Epps said she taught both Johnson and Rives at West Rowan High School.
When she last saw Rives in the school hallway, Epps said, she playfully punched him on the shoulder. As he turned around, she told him, “Have a really good day, Cody.”
“I didn’t know that was going to be his last day at school,” Epps said. “We don’t ever know.”
After their accident, Epps said, she was at a rare loss for words.
“I couldn’t understand. I sat down and looked at my room, and I saw Cody’s spot, and I saw Tyrelle’s spot,” she said, her voice breaking. “As a mother and a teacher, my heart just broke. I loved these boys like they were my own.”
But the next day, Epps told her class that they couldn’t just let it go without doing more than feeling sad.
“I challenged my classes, and I challenge you, and I’m going to challenge every student I teach for the rest of my life — we have to value the life that God has given us,” she said. “We have to take advantage of the time that we have. We have to think first and act second. And we have to let people know that we love them.”
Nathan Lemly said Rives, his best friend, was a caring person who was there for him through the hardest parts of his life.
“Cody, I know you’re looking down on us right now, and you know I love you,” Lemly said. “You were the best friend anyone could have ever had.”
Dalton Brinson, a student officer in the West Rowan High School JROTC, called the names of each member in alphabetical order. They each stood and responded, until he got to the letter “J.”
Brinson took a deep breath and repeated the call, knowing that each time it would be met with silence.
“Sgt. Tyrelle Johnson…”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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