It's the only way she knows how to carry on.
It's the way Ty would have wanted it.
John Tyler Stufflebeam was killed in a car accident last September near Slippery Rock University - where he went to college.
Photo submitted to Times Observer
The late Tyler Stufflebeam with his brothers in their Steelers gear (Joe, at left, and Justice, right).
According to police, the SUV Stufflebeam was riding in went through an intersection and collided with a tractor trailer. The vehicle spun from the initial impact and the rear end hit the side of the tractor trailer. Stufflebeam was ejected through the back window. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
He was 21.
"I didn't only lose a son, but I lost a best friend," said Ty's mother, Chris (Flasher) Greene, who was closer to Ty than words can describe. She had raised Ty alone for the first nine years of his life, after having lost his father to an accident before Ty was born.
"Ty, I miss you every day, your smile, your laugh, the silly things you would do. Not a moment passes that I don't think of you... The sweetest person I ever knew," she wrote among hundreds and hundreds of personal messages on the Facebook page, "Tyler Stufflebeam - May your spirit keep on."
From the moment of the accident, Chris has been reminded of what she already knew: "Tyler touched so many people," she said. "It just makes you feel so proud."
She began to cry even before the interview started.
"They are tears of being proud," she said.
Looking through photographs of Stufflebeam, the handsome, athletic young man seemed to live in a bandanna, Livestrong band, and high black socks. But there was much more than meets the eye with the former football, wrestling and track and field athlete at Warren Area High School.
Make no mistake, he was a standout, but not for the reasons athletes usually are. For as good an athlete as he was, he had an even bigger heart.
Take the Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic football game, for example; after his senior season, Stufflebeam was picked to play for team Pennsylvania in the annual senior all-star game. He wasn't particularly excited about practicing for a month before his freshman year in college. That is until he found out the game raised money for individuals and organizations in need.
"It wasn't until I stepped on to that field, waiting to be announced, that I realized what the Big 30 organization was all about," Stufflebeam wrote in a college paper. "Before the players were announced, a small boy named Nicholas was rolled out on his wheelchair to the center of the field by his mother. He had a bunch of blankets over his legs and was very thin and sickly looking. The announcer then began to tell the story of Nicholas, who was suffering from muscular dystrophy. He was extremely ill and had only a guarantee of one more year of life. His doctors had all confirmed, before the age of 20 Nicholas would most surely be dead without a highly technical and expensive operation, which wasn't even guaranteed to save his life.
"After I heard that the Big 30 was donating money to help save a kid's life, I was touched and then realized that the Big 30 was not about the football game, the parade, or the celebration; these were all just methods used to get people interested in their real cause, providing generous donations of money and support to people who are well deserving of it," Stufflebeam wrote. "Being a Big 30 all-star is more than being a good player, it's about being an all-star person."
"That is the way I feel like Tyler was," said Chris.
An all-star person.
His mother is not the only person who noticed.
"We're so lucky, in a way, because I really don't feel like we're grieving alone," said Chris, married to Rob Greene - the only father Ty ever knew - with Ty's little brothers Justice and Joe. "Friends, family, and the community is just unreal. I would live nowhere else. When there's a tragedy, they are there. I'm glad people are remembering him, and taking a little bit of him and putting it in their life."
Nathan Zigler is the cousin of a good friend of Ty's. Last fall, shortly after Stufflebeam's untimely death, Zigler asked a teammate if he could switch football jerseys to Ty's former No. 22.
"They were very inspired, they talked a lot about playing this game for him and they had tape on their wrists with his number, and they prayed before and after the game for him," said Warren head coach Brad Wright.
The Warren Sports Boosters will have a granite seat for Tyler at War Memorial Field.
Though he won his share of awards, he wasn't the best player on his teams, but possibly the most inspirational.
Appropriately posted on the "Tyler Stufflebeam - May your spirit keep on" Facebook page:
The poem, "Success:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."
Friends held a candlelight vigil at Slippery Rock University, and the Green and White Society, of which Stufflebeam was vice president, raised money to start a memorial scholarship fund at the college in the name of J. Tyler Stufflebeam.
There's a wooden bench on campus with his name engraved on it.
Recently, Ty's little brother Justice honored him by wrestling in a novice tournament renamed the J. Tyler Stufflebeam Memorial Youth Wrestling Tournament.
He positively impacted everyone he met. And he came across a lot of people.
"To Joe and Justice, he was a hero," said Chris. "Kids just came to Ty. It was the aura he had about him. There were a lot of kids at the playground that came to Beaty that year instead of Mulberry, where they played Wiffle Ball, because Ty was one of the counselors at Beaty. He was too much a kid himself."
He helped with local gridiron camps, refereed Warren youth wrestling tournaments, and coached Slippery Rock elementary school wrestlers for a year. He worked at Spina Bifida Firefly Camp, and with Kids in Action, at Slippery Rock University, which works with kids after school that have autism ages 5 to 12. He also participated in St. Jude Up All Night in college. That was a fundraiser for the children's research hospital.
"Tyler- As I have been recruiting for summer staff this summer, I have been playing the slide shows for each of the camps and I see your smiling face in lots of the pictures! The kids ask about you all the time at camp, but I can't bring myself to tell them that you won't ever see them again. We miss you, Tyler! You were going to be the assistant camp director this year! Please continue to watch over us all in Heaven. Thinking of you always! Firefly Camp and Retreat Staff"
"Tyler just loved kids and people who were in need of something," said Chris. "The Firefly camp had adults for one week so that was a mixture of kids and adults. He would call me during that camp and be so tired and hot (mainly hot because he didn't pack the fan I told him he would need), but he never complained about wishing he was doing something else. He just liked bringing smiles to people's faces and showing them fun in life. And if he could help in that way at all, it always made him feel good; whether it was helping a kid who needed encouragement, teaching people healthy lifestyles, or just being there for someone. Those kinds of things always tugged at Tyler's heart. I think it also made him realize how lucky the healthy people in life should be because there was always someone worse off."
"There was a band last night and they played 'Party in the USA' and I could just see you singing at the top of your lungs, dancing like a fool. I miss you so much, but I'm thankful for every single amazing day we spent together. I'm thankful for your beautiful smile that stole my heart and those eyes that only saw the best in life. I'm so thankful for your friends who take care of me and I consider my best friends, too. Anyways, love you, babe."
Chris struggled with the aftermath of the accident; with the fact Ty and his friends had a designated driver that night, and he was being the kind of son she taught him to be.
Jon Zigler doesn't get into a vehicle and put on a seatbelt without thinking of Ty - and it's just another example of the lasting impact his friend will have. It was Ty's vehicle in the accident, and there were more passengers than seatbelts. Ty decided since it was his vehicle, he'd go without a seatbelt.
"He was the one that offered to sit in the back (of the 2001 Ford Escape)," said Jon. "Obviously it's terrible, of course it is, but it goes to show the kind of person that he was."
Jon said even in his death he will send a positive message:
"It just puts it into perspective that you should always wear your seatbelt - anything can happen at any single time," said Jon.
"Ironically, he would not leave the driveway without buckling his seatbelt," said Chris.
His roommate offered to go without a seatbelt, but Ty said otherwise.
"The way I feel now is all of our kids are gifts from God and we never know how long we are going to have them," said Chris. "Not only did I need him, but a lot of people needed him. I really feel like God gave him to all of us."
"You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes. Walter M. Schirra, Sr."
In sports, and in life, Tyler brought people together. Sometimes in unique ways, like how everyone dressed in Steelers clothing or camouflage at his own funeral.
"Tyler had such a zest for life," said Chris. "He was a comedian, that is the way we're supposed to live.
"It's not as much about the loss, but the faith in life," she said.
"A canoe trip instantly popped right out of my mouth," said Chris. "We're going to have an annual canoe trip for Ty. As soon as I said it, it just seemed right. He wasn't a showy type of person; just put him on the river and he didn't need anything else."
Canoes/kayaks by the dozens are being rented from Allegheny Outfitters, and ready for the river this Saturday, three days before what would have been Ty's 22nd birthday. Seventy or so kayaks and 140 or so friends and family will start at Kinzua Dam at 11 a.m. Proceeds from t-shirts are being split between the J. Tyler Stufflebeam Memorial Scholarship Fund at Slippery Rock, the Warren Grid Club and the Warren Wrestling Boosters. They'll meet for a cookout and a some karaoke in Ty's memory.
"Everyone is looking forward to a positive event to commemorate him," said Jon Zigler. "A 5K race would obviously be well attended, but this was so him. I'm extremely happy that it's taking place. I think it's going to be a great thing."
"We want it to be fun," said Chris, "because that's the way we're supposed to be."
"I went for a walk the other day and sat on a bench overlooking a stream and it was a beautiful sight! And all I could think was 'Ty would love this.' I know you are with us every step of the way."