Teenager laid to rest as community shows support

Published 9:30 am Friday, December 22, 2023

The loss of a loved one always leaves a negative feeling.

Yet, it seems to be felt even more when it’s a teenager.

Ryan Clay Phelps, a 17-year-old student from George Rogers Clark High School, was laid to rest at Central Baptist Church at 101 W. Lexington Avenue last Wednesday, Dec. 20th, after his untimely death in a farming accident on Saturday, Dec. 16th.

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“On behalf of the family, thank you for being here today to remember and celebrate the life of Ryan Phelps,” said Trask Murphy, the next generation pastor at Central Baptist Church. “Ryan was a hardworking young man who will be missed.”

As a tribute to his character and a showing of community support, hundreds paid their respects at Wednesday morning’s service.

Among them were not only students from a variety of backgrounds but also working professionals, including Clark County Public Schools Superintendent Dustin Howard and CCPS Chief Academic Officer Kelly Fithen.

Phelps, a member of the school’s award-winning JROTC squad, had recently signed up to join the United States Marine Corps.

Master Sergeant Larry Lee, who helps lead the school’s JROTC program, spoke along with Lt. Colonel Thomas Krupp.

“We’ve had the pleasure and the honor to have Ryan in our program for the past three years,” Lee said. “Everything that everybody is saying about him here just makes me smile. He came up with a lot of different activities. He was involved with a lot.”

A poem titled “Fear and Fridays” – a personal favorite of Ryan’s – written by Zack Bryan, was read.

“I am loyal to a fault to anyone I find kindness in[.] I do not and will not fear tomorrow because I feel as though today has been enough[.]…I got no hate in my heart for anything, anywhere, or anyone,” reads one portion of the poem.

Brooklin Osborne, a freshman cadet with JROTC, had written a poem on the tribute wall of Ryan’s online obituary page at Scobee Funeral Home’s website, found at https://www.scobeefuneralhome.com/obituaries/Ryan-Clay-Phelps?obId=30135189.

The poem describes Ryan as someone whose “presence brought joy so sweet” and states, “Though tears may fall, memories will stay….[i]n the cadence of laughter, in the moments each day.”

Murphy also read a message written by Phelps’ good friend, GRC student Landen Speck.

“Ryan was light. He was a light for all of us. He was full of life. He was full of ambition and motivation,” Speck wrote. “Ryan lived a life of no regrets. I truly believe every single day, he lived his life to the fullest…I want to live like Ryan.”

Murphy also offered perspective while speaking about the tragedy of Ryan’s passing.

“In the midst of all this darkness, God’s word tells us, there is hope”, he said, often referencing biblical text such as John 1:5.

Along with spoken words, Phelps’ service was accompanied by music, including an instrumental version of the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Chisholm, “Boy” by Lee Brice, “Is He Worthy” by Chris Tomlin, and “I Will Wait for You (Psalm 130)”, which has been performed by multiple artists.

Following services at Central Baptist Church, a cavalcade of vehicles traveled to Clarmont Memorial Gardens Cemetery, where Phelps will be interred.

After closing words and Phelps’ family receiving flowers – along with friends having the opportunity to take one laid on top of his casket – the service concluded.

Later on Wednesday evening, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., a benefit night in honor of Phelps occurred at the Dairy Queen Grill & Chill at 1422 Fulton Road.

Different GRC students continued to speak highly of Phelps.

“If you needed advice or anything, he would be there for you,” said sophomore Hayes Bishop. “It’ll be different without him here.”

“He would always know how to make you happy [or] make you smile whenever you were sad,” added senior Allie Endricks, a member of GRC JROTC along with Phelps. “He was just a great person.”

Individuals gathered throughout the week to remember Phelps in various ways as well.

All took place to honor the young man whose life positively impacted others.

“He left his mark all over town and [in] our hearts,” Murphy said.