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Reporter's Notebook

May 4, 2013

Teachers say Afton boy was funny, smart

Craig A. Gohl was an “amazing storyteller,’’ who had “a lot to offer the world,’’ an administrator at Afton Central School said Thursday.

Kimberly S. Werth, principal of Afton Elementary School, said Craig was artistic, loved music, had a sharp mind and was considerate of others. Pupils at the school were offered counseling this week, she said, and they contributed thoughts and stories for a memory box for the family. Craig was an energetic boy who joked and smiled to everyone he passed in the hallway, Werth said.

Craig, 11, his father, Nathan J. Herbert, 45, and Herbert’s girlfriend, Anna M. Ebert, 54, died in a fire at their Afton home on April 27.

Werth prepared comments to share at Craig’s funeral at the First Baptist Church in Bainbridge on Thursday night. As members of the church, Werth said, she had known Craig since he was about 3 years old.

Werth said she had help preparing comments from school faculty, including Tara McManus, who was Craig’s fifth-grade teacher.

Craig would sulk and “be spinning his wheels’’ over writing assignments, and as an incentive, McManus gave him comic books after successful completion of a writing project. At the end of the year, Craig presented McManus with the comic books, plus others from his collection, in case she had another pupil like him.

McManus convinced Craig to keep the books, Werth said, and this year, Craig found joy in writing letters to the homesick soldiers overseas.

Afton Elementary School has about 330 students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, Werth said, and the sixth grade is the smallest class unit at the school — 28 sixth-graders, not including Craig.

After hearing about the fire and Craig’s death, Werth said she and another school administrator called the families of sixth-graders to let them know so that parents had a chance to speak to his classmates before school. 

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