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A community grieves: Teacher and student die in car crash

Douglas Bonham
Douglas Bonham

By Kristine Thomas

The more than 300 flickering candles held by mourners on a windy and rainy evening were one indication of the influence Silverton High School junior Matthew Albrecht and Bethany Charter School teacher Douglas Bonham had on their community.

Albrecht, 16, and Bonham, 30, died in a single-vehicle crash around 7 p.m. March 4 near 32000 block of South Palmer Road in Molalla. The cause of the crash was still under investigation as of Our Town press time. Bonham served as a mentor to Albrecht.

Matthew Albrecht
Matthew Albrecht

Community members have shared their appreciation of both in numerous ways, including on-line fundraisers to help their families, memorial pages, memorials and more. The bench at SHS was painted in red, white and blue with the words “Rest in Peace Matthew” and “‘Merica on 3.” Matthew has been described as patriotic.

On March 7, mourners gathered at Bethany Charter School to remember the two. The cyclone fence was decorated with orange and black balloons and streamers. Bethany’s reader board read “Forever in our hearts Matthew and Mr. Bonham.”  There were moments of silence and laughter and tears at the vigil.

A fifth and sixth-grade teacher and basketball coach at Bethany Charter School, Bonham is survived by his wife Megan and their two children. Albrecht was a member of the Silverton football and wrestling teams and jazz band.

Silver Falls School District Superintendent Andy Bellando said Bonham was a talented and resourceful teacher.

“He took pride in learning about each child and then teaching to their individual needs,” Bellando said. “Doug wanted to be a teacher as far back as his elementary school days. He was living his life dream when this tragedy occurred.”

Bethany Principal Kathy Frank said Bonham was always willing to lend a hand. “I believe every student that had the great opportunity to be in Mr. Bonham’s class would describe him as he was funny and had great personality,” Frank said.

Silverton High School Principal Mark Hannan said Albrecht was a good kid who was liked by many.

“He could connect with any and all peer groups,” Hannan said. “Matthew touched a lot of different students at SHS and it’s a tragedy we lost him so young.  He will be missed.”

A friend of both Albrecht and Bonham, Todd Merklin led the vigil and asked mourners to shout out one word to describe the men.

For Albrecht, mourners used words including “kind, loud, American, hilarious, smart, too young and one of a kind.” Bonham was described as “best teacher, brilliant, peaceful, playful, gentleman, joyous and courageous.”

Albrecht

Silverton High teacher Heather Bashor said Albrecht could answer any question she threw at him in her accelerated Algebra 2 class. “Matthew was an energetic, fun-loving and kind student,” Bashor said.

Because he usually finished his work quickly, Bashor said Albrecht would often help other students with their work.

“Students described him as passionate, outgoing, committed, and forgiving,” Bashor said. “Overall, I feel like he was a young man that held a special place in your heart. There was just something about Matt!”

When Sarah McArthur first met Albrecht as a freshman in her Advisory Group class, she noticed he was energetic.

“Our AG class is like a family and it took almost three years to get used to his boisterous personality. He’s the one kid I would notice right away that was absent,” McArthur said. “It’s going to take a year and half to get used to the quiet he has left behind.”

Anna Koch, Makayla Howe and Jocelyn Brown are in McArthur’s AG class. Howe said Matthew always had a smile on his face.

“Matthew was a gentleman and gave great advice,” Koch said. “He was always willing to help you.”

Brown said Matthew was the “wild spice” in everyone’s life. “He was spontaneous and wanted to make life worth it.”

Bonham

A high school basketball official, Steven Bates wrote on Bonham’s memorial page that his favorite place to officiate was Bethany School. “Doug was such a positive individual, who was always smiling, continually encouraging and teaching the kids, and his energy and passion seemed endless,” Bates wrote.

His current and past students have stated Bonham was the best teacher they have ever had.

“He wasn’t afraid to tell us about the real world, politics, or the dangers that are currently happening. He had a goal for each student in his class, and he would not give up until each of the goals were completed,” Bethany student Jazmyn Lewis wrote. “…He wasn’t an ordinary teacher, and all his students were thankful for that.”

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