Islanders silently stood around a wide spread of flowers and enclosed messages at 7a Foods in West Tisbury Thursday afternoon, what has become a growing memorial for 17-year-old Waylon Sauer.
Some Islanders came individually, others in small groups; a few people, including a student who was close friends with Waylon, couldn’t hold back their emotions over the loss of the young Islander.
The memorial, in front of the restaurant run by the Sauer family, has become a place for the Island community to mourn the loss of 17-year-old Waylon, who was a junior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
There have also been words of support over social media. J.B. Blau, an Island restaurateur, said in a comment that Waylon’s friends are asking people to “flood the 7a patio with flowers and support.”
From his teachers, teammates, and coaches, Waylon was remembered for his part in reviving a youth group for the tribal community, as a member of the Unified Basketball team, and as a good student.
Officials say that Waylon drove off the roadway late Tuesday, Nov. 14, and collided with a tree. Emergency personnel were dispatched to State Road near Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury.
The impact of his loss has been felt hard at the high school.
“He was loved and embraced by this school community in an exceptional way,” MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy said. “Seeing the sadness and devastation in students and teachers yesterday was heartbreaking. Waylon was loved by all.”
Dingledy described Waylon as an “exceptional student” who really took on the role of a peer leader this year.
“It was remarkable to see his growth over the years,” she said. “He was about to be inducted into the National Honor Society. He was part of the Race Culture Retreat last week; he had taken on the leadership of the Wampanoag Youth Group this year — reviving that group after a long hiatus.”
Waylon was also an athlete, playing basketball and lacrosse at MVRHS.
School Athletic Director Mark McCarthy described Waylon as a nice kid, and said the accident was “very sad on all fronts.”
As a hoopster, Waylon also made an impact playing for the MVRHS Unified Basketball team, where athletes with and without disabilities play together.
“He was a great guy, and I love him more so much,” Winnie Welles, who played Unified Basketball with Waylon, said.
Unified Basketball Head Coach Kevin McGrath told The Times that Waylon was the first student who expressed interest in joining the team over the summer, participating enthusiastically and for “all the right reasons.” McGrath said Waylon really supported his teammates, and seemed to become friends with everyone who knew him. He said the team is “heartbroken,” and trying to process through this challenging time.
On the night of the accident, the unified team had a team dinner. McGrath said Waylon was socializing and taking photos with teammates. The Unified Basketball team was supposed to play one more game on Wednesday, against Barnstable High School, which was canceled after the accident.
McGrath said the team still plans to meet together to remember Waylon and think of a way to support his family.
“He was a great teammate,” McGrath said “He did everything right, and everything we asked of a player … It really takes a special kid to really fulfill those qualities we look for in a Unified kid.”