'He's one of a kind': Family, friends mourn the death of Evans High School senior
When 18-year-old Ethan Franklin wasn’t hunting, skeet shooting, playing pool at Rack & Grill, or stealing his mother’s Diet Cokes from the refrigerator, he was thinking of a way to make someone around him smile.
The Evans High School senior, described by friends and family as fun-loving and one of a kind, died Friday after a medical complication, shocking the community.
Franklin’s mother, Kristin, said he started to show cold symptoms during Christmas break and was diagnosed with bronchitis and pneumonia. He received antibiotics in the hospital, showed signs of improvement and was discharged.
However, his condition worsened and he later died in the hospital during a bronchoscopy.
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“This is just a really unusual circumstance,” Kristin Franklin said. “They wanted to get a sample to make sure we were on the right antibiotic to treat the pneumonia and during the bronc, when they went to go get that sample, his pulmonary artery ruptured and he bled out.”
She said the rupture was imminent and there was nothing staff could have done to prevent it.
“He was sedated and the next minute he was at Christ’s feet,” Franklin said. “He didn’t suffer. … I know without a shadow of a doubt, everything was done for my son that could be done and that was just God's plan.”
Another part of God’s plan, she said, was her son finding his faith at a young age.
“He accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior when he was young,” Franklin said. “The impact that he’s having on things now, with his passing, it’s just incredible. Some of his friends went to church with us yesterday and four of them were saved.
"I can't understand God, but I see God's plan through salvation for his friends. He couldn't take anything with him, but he could take souls to heaven, so that means a lot to me.”
One of Franklin’s friends, Alex Schmacht, 19, said Franklin didn’t just believe in God, he embodied God’s love through kind acts in the community.
“Most of us, we didn't really go to church all that often,” Schmacht said. “But since he's passed, we've been trying to get in touch with that side because we knew he really was in touch with God.”
Always looking to make others smile
Franklin’s friends said one of the things they will miss most about him was his light-hearted demeanor and easy-going nature.
Franklin and Schmacht started cutting people’s lawns at the age of 14, Schmacht said, and eventually started a small business they called “Grass Masters.”
“We started doing that with my brother and his brother, and we're both twins,” he said. “When me and Ethan realized that we could take it somewhere further, we started our own business. … We just went around town and asked people, from door to door, if we could do their yards.”
Schmacht said the boys worked together almost every day and Franklin’s demeanor always lightened the work day.
“We had a fun time,” he said. “It was better than any other job I could get. … He's always the jokester of the room and he always tried to make everyone laugh, even if he was having a bad day.”
Ethan Franklin planned on becoming either a game warden or a nurse after high school, following in the footsteps of his mother, who is also a nurse.
Franklin’s mother said her son always prioritized others’ feelings above his own.
“He was thoughtful and compassionate,” she said. “When he was diagnosed with diabetes three or four years ago, we were in the hospital and I was sleeping on the hospital air sofa, which is pretty uncomfortable. Ethan, I think he was like 14 or 15, said, ‘Come here, get in bed with me’ and he shared his hospital bed with me.”
On Thursday, Franklin’s last night in the hospital, Kristin Franklin said she offered to pick up take out food, which ended up being one of his last meals.
“The food at the hospital wasn't really good, so I said, ‘What do you want for dinner’ and he said, ‘Well, mommy, I picked last night. What do you want?" she said. "Even when he wasn't feeling good, he always thought of me.”
Cole Glover, 18, a friend of Franklin’s, said even though he was always trying to put a smile on everyone’s faces, sometimes he didn’t even know he was doing it.
“He’d find any way to sleep,” Glover said. “I remember one time we were out duck hunting and he fell asleep on his little hunting bucket. He had his feet and his arms in his jacket and he was sleeping like that before he migrated to the ground, and was using his ammo bag as a pillow. He was balled up like a little chihuahua. I will never forget that one. He always found a way to kick out for a few minutes.”
Matthew Carson, 19, another one of Franklin’s friends, said he will always treasure being the last person to go hunting with Franklin.
“We didn't shoot anything, but whenever we go hunting, whether we shoot anything or not, he still always has fun,” Carson said. “He's never a Debbie Downer about anything. He's one of a kind. I don't have any other friends like him. He was always there for people that needed him and he was always there for everybody.”
Outpouring of love from the community
Following Ethan Franklin’s death, Kristin Franklin said she has felt an enormous amount of support from the community.
“We've been showered with love,” she said. “I went to get my hair cut today from Trendz Salon and I had been crying because I just got off the phone with Evans High School, and when it was done, the lady who cut my hair said, ‘There’s no charge for this today.’”
She added her phone has been filled with kind text messages and a number of people came to drop things off to hold the family over while they process the loss.
“People have dropped off things, some things you wouldn't even think would be a blessing, like toilet paper,” she said. “I was like, ‘Man, that's a blessing.’”
Since Ethan Franklin’s death was so unexpected, a number of friends set up fundraisers to help the family with medical expenses, funeral costs and food.
“It's tough because it's out of the blue,” Schmacht said. “I'd say everyone's handled it the best they possibly could right now, just being there for the family and remembering what Ethan was like.”
As of Tuesday morning, the GoFundMe Carson created has raised almost $2,000. Kristin Franklin is also accepting donations through Venmo @Kristin-Franklin-16.
A memorial service will be held Feb. 4 at 2:00 p.m. at Lakemont Presbyterian Church, located at 411 Pleasant Home Road in Augusta. The family will receive friends for visitation one hour prior to the service, beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the church.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: 'One of a kind': Community mourns loss of Evans High School senior