Family, friends release balloons in honor of Ronnie Bowers

Hundreds of people packed the Kettering Fairmont High School auditorium today to attend the funeral for 16-year-old Ronald Bowers, exactly a week after he was shot in the back of the head near AlterFest.

Mourners were given a glimpse into Bowers’ short life. Four poster board photo collages of Bowers from infancy through his teen years were on display near the entrance. A slideshow with more photos of Bowers played on a large screen above his casket. Outside the auditorium, people gathered in small groups, consoling one another and sharing hugs.

Nearly every seat was filled at the auditorium for the start of the funeral. Family members wore red, with some adorned with corchet heart pins over their chests. Police said Bowers was an innocent bystander who was shot Sept. 4 after an incident flared that up at AlterFest ended in a nearby neighborhood in Kettering. Bowers, who died Tuesday, was an organ donor. His death has been ruled a homicide.

Roger Hemmelgarn, Ronnie’s stepgrandfather, said he has fond memories of Ronnie, especially when he was a little boy who enjoyed looking at the steers in the barn or sitting on his lap when he mowed the lawn. Once, Hemmelgarn’s daughter, Ronnie’s stepmother came over with Ronnie when he was still small while Hemmelgarn was walking through the yard. “I saw Ronnie and I yelled, ‘Hey Ronnie’ and he came running right into my arms,” he said.

“He was over this past summer with his dad and his stepbrother and sister to get some firewood, and now this has got to happen,” Hemmelgarn said. “I’m really glad he came over.”

Bowers’ mother, Jessica Combs, asked all media to leave the auditorium for the funeral.

The service — which Routsong Funeral Home on Stroop Road helped organize — was to include songs from a few friends and eulogies by selected friends, family and a pastor, said Combs said. “My family and I — including my kids — have the largest friends support system that anyone has ever seen,” she said. “We have a huge friends support system — that I’m grateful for,” Combs said previously. Following her son’s funeral, she declined to say more.

After the funeral, more than 200 in attendance stayed to pray before a balloon release in Bowers’ honor.

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