By Bob Zientara
Drivers traveling along U.S. Hwy. 63, during the evening last weekend, may have noticed a tiny light alongside the west side of the road near Clayton.
A single candle had been placed in a green container to mark the place where a pair of 16-year-old youths, Michael Magnuson and Grace Schradle, had lost their lives in a crash the previous Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
The two teens were in a vehicle that collided with a semi-trailer truck at the corner of 60th Street, Polk County, and U.S. Hwy. 63, about two miles southwest of the Clayton village limits, on the afternoon of Sept. 16.
According to Sheriff Brent Waak, Clayton School District was conducting a teacher training day on the afternoon of the accident, so school wasn’t in session when the crash took place.
On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 22, Clayton High School filled with hundreds of people who attended a two-hour memorial for the crash victims.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the emotional fallout reverberated through the Clayton community, where the school district has an enrollment of only about 400.
But the repercussions went far beyond the school district boundaries and impacted the lives of relatives and friends living elsewhere in Barron County and surrounding areas, and to other hundreds of people throughout the region.
Visiting Clayton football players carried Magnuson’s jersey onto the field Friday evening, Sept. 20, as they visited Bruce High School, in Rusk County, for a Lakeland Conference football game.
Bruce students and family members responded by contributing $560 in behalf of the Clayton School District and the families of the deceased students in advance of the game. An additional $200 more was donated later that evening, and a Bruce booster club added another donation, bringing the total to more than $1,300.
According to a spokesperson for the Bruce coaching staff, a relative of the Schradle family “said that our staff, our football program, and our community are top notch and they had no words as to how impressed they were with the heartwarming feeling of the … night.”
Late last week, the two students were fondly remembered in online obituary information.
Members of Michael Magnuson’s family wrote about how he loved watching college and professional sports along with the (family) dogs Remington and Harley, playing video games and playing for Clayton sports teams.
Magnuson “looked forward to joining the U.S. Air Force, hopefully becoming an officer and getting a degree in engineering,” the obituary added.
Grace Schradle’s obituary noted she “was beaming with passion, joy, and positivity wherever she went, (and that) she had a kind, humble, beautiful, generous, gentle, loyal and loving heart.”
Schradle’s locker had a sign that said “be legendary,” that she loved playing volleyball, being with her friends, and playing with her cat, Georgina. She hoped to attend college to earn a degree in Education,” the obituary added.
A funeral Mass for Magnuson took place Saturday, Sept. 21, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Amery. Schradle’s funeral was Monday, Sept. 23, at Zion Lutheran Church in Turtle Lake.