Last week, Trevor Kramer would have graduated with his friends at Indian River High School. Instead, he was lovingly remembered as a kind and outgoing young man who succumbed to cancer in his junior year of high school.
His classmates gave tribute during the May 31 commencement, both in their speeches and in a hand-painted portrait that freshman Liliana Guido presented to Trevor’s family.
Trevor passed away at 16 in March of 2016 at A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital, after battling brain cancer. The 11th-grader lived in Frankford and was born in Pennsylvania to MaryJo Brinson and Michael James Kramer. He loved baseball, both cheering the Phillies and playing Little League.
“He was always a joker,” said his stepfather, Gerald Brinson. “If you were down, he’d make sure people would smile.”
Based on his 11th-grade portrait, the acrylic painting shows a thoughtful young man with clear blue eyes. The vibrant portrait will be hung with the memorial in his old bedroom.
When IRSD upperclassmen had asked the art department to paint a portrait of their fallen classmate, art teacher Steven O’Boyle wanted to submit the best work possible. It might seem like a challenging project for a ninth-grader, but O’Boyle saw Guido’s artistic potential to accomplish such important project.
“Liliana was the one I had chosen to do it, with absolute craft and professionalism, and I think she did accomplish that,” said O’Boyle.
She had never met Trevor, but Guido asked around.
“Everyone said he was like a big brother to everybody. A lot of people knew him and loved him,” she said. “And I was just so shocked that I didn’t even know him or meet him.”
Graduation day was the family’s first time meeting the artist. They hugged her lovingly and encouraged her to keep creating art. They also insisted that she get an “A” on the project.
“My gut told me I should do this … to put my best effort and heart into it for family and everyone who loved him,” said Guido, adding that she felt “very, very honored and privileged to do something like this.”
“I think it was just a good thing for the school and the community, when art comes together with big events. [That] tends to be very special,” O’Boyle said.
Principal Bennett Murray said he was proud of his students for memorializing Trevor, both in art and in their graduation speeches.
“I think all 220 students had learned or were touched in some way by his life or his passing. How they use that, that’s up to them,” Murray said. “But I have seen such changes… It’s a hard lesson to learn, but I am just so proud of everything that I’ve seen.”
Senior Class President David Clark would agree. As a child, he had attended daycare with Trevor, and he had felt his death acutely.
“It left us shattered. But it’s also quite astounding to me how that brought us together and made us a family,” Clark told the crowd.
“He had a huge heart, and the one thing he taught me before he left us is that we can never ever give up, and I think that’s a message that we can carry from this moment forward,” Clark said. “Let’s never give up. Let’s never stop going after what we want. We will never settle.”
Murray told the graduates that “when the time is right,” old friends will meet again, despite distance or death.
“I know that Trevor is with us tonight, and he is as proud as I am of each one of you guys,” Murray said.
It was an overwhelming night, but Trevor’s mother said she loved it.
“I can’t even put words into it. I’m just so proud of everybody. It’s just awesome, all of his friends,” MaryJo Brinson said. “It was really great. It just warms my heart to know that everyone loved him so much.”