Community copes with week’s second tragedy

As Maple Lake residents were leaving a Wednesday night prayer service for Joshua Guimond, the news was spreading that the community had been dealt another blow.  Joe Zander, a junior at Maple Lake High School and the son of Tom and Cyndy Zander, died unexpectedly at his home Wednesday evening.

By early on Thursday morning, a crisis team that included clergy, counselors and administrators had assembled at the high school to help students cope with Zander’s death. In the first period classrooms, teachers read the following statement: “It is with deep regret that we inform you that Joe Zander, a student of ours, died yesterday. We are profoundly saddened by Joe’s death. Our support will go to the family.  “Some of you knew Joe and some of you did not get a chance to know him. Dealing with the death of a person in our midst is never easy.”

The statement went on to encourage students to talk to teachers or the assembled professionals as needed. “The main thing was just to be there to listen and to support students,” said Rev. Scott Jakel, a pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Annandale and a crisis team member. “The school has a great crisis plan and put it into implementation.”

Principal Mary James said Zander was a young man “with a wonderful wit” who was involved with band and Boy Scouts.  “His dad was in the community band, his mom volunteered with the high school band. They were all very involved with our band program. My heart goes out to his parents and we want them to know they have our support and sympathy.”

Zander’s pastor, Rev. David Martens of Bethlehem United Church of Christ, said Joe often took care of children at the church nursery. “And they just adored him,” Martens said.

Steve Loch worked with Zander in the Boy Scouts for many years.  “Joe was a very good Scout,” Loch said. “He was in the process of working on his Eagle Scout project and he represented Maple Lake at the National Boy Scout Jamboree.”  Loch said Zander worked not only on his own Boy Scout projects, but on the projects of other scouts, which kept him very active in the community.

In Joe’s last volunteer effort, he provided a helping hand at Maple Lake Elementary’s Halloween Carnival.  Loch said Zander also looked out for the younger kids.  “If something wasn’t right, Joe wasn’t afraid to speak up and make things right for the younger kids,” he said. “And they looked up to him.”

Services for Joe Zander were held on Sunday at United Bethlehem Church of Christ.