June 25, 2016

Mostly clear

A table of tribute

MEDINA — Beginning at age 9, Travis Latka annually attended the Medina County Fair to show various animals. His classmate Brian Sicz was involved with showing projects at the fair since joining Future Farmers of America two years ago.
This year, the two will not be showing any animals or projects. Instead, they will be remembered at the fair through a picnic table that bears their names. Latka, 17, and Sicz, 16, died of injuries sustained in a crash in March.

The Black River FFA arranged for the table to be placed outside the Beef Barn where Latka showed steer.
Lowell Wolff, the Black River FFA faculty adviser, said the table appropriately commemorates the boys. “Especially where it is located,” he said.
“Originally, they called the fair board to see if they could do something,” Wolff said. “They said they didn’t need any benches at the time, so they said, ‘How about a picnic table?’ ”
Jake Tyree, president of the Black River FFA and a senior at Black River High School, suggested his FFA class commemorate their classmates.
The vehicle Latka and Sicz were riding in was hit by a tractor-trailer March 23 at Harris Road and U.S. Route 224 in Harrisville Township. The juniors had left their school, the Medina County Career Center, early that morning.
Sicz, who was driving his 2006 Chevy Cobalt, was pronounced dead at the scene. Latka died the following day at Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center. He was taken there after the crash by emergency helicopter.
The two would have been seniors this year.
Tyree, 17, who became friends with the boys through FFA, said he organized the picnic table project this spring.
“I had built picnic tables before. I guess I was the designated quarterback of the project,” he said.
The Black River FFA class spent seven 45-minute classes in late May and early June putting the picnic table together.
The finished project was transported to the fairgrounds Saturday night and will remain there for many fair seasons.
“As long as you keep staining it, it should last quite a long time,” Tyree said.
Wolff said Latka’s parents saw the table when it was installed Saturday.
“They were very appreciative,” he said.
“I miss him very much. It’s different without him,” Tyree said of Latka.
Latka’s stepgrandmother, Cynthia Berry, said he showed lambs since he was 9 and began showing beef steer and dairy beef in 2000.
“Travis was always a good sport,” she said. “He came to win. If he didn’t, he didn’t care.” She said Latka won many awards over the years, including a first place for best rate of gain in the junior dairy beef category.
Starting this year, that award was given in memory of Latka. Donations from the public paid for a trophy with Latka’s picture on it. The award will be rotated among the winners of the best rate of gain in future years.
On Monday, Tyree became the first to receive the award.