Aaron Hodges Worley, 18, varsity athlete, trumpeter

March 13, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Aaron Hodges Worley, a 1999 graduate of Wilde Lake High School, where he was a member of three varsity teams, died Wednesday of leukemia at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Columbia resident was 18.

Mr. Worley wrestled with the Wilde Lake High School Wildecats for three years and also ran track and cross country.

Two weeks before graduation last spring, a blood test revealed that he had leukemia. He began chemotherapy treatments the next day at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He later was awarded his high school diploma in a small private ceremony held at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Children's Center.

Alan Cohen, a Wilde Lake High School art teacher who had been Mr. Worley's adviser, said: "When he came to me in the 10th grade, he was a very shy and self-effacing individual. By the time he was a senior, he had come into his own as a leader. He had become a person of responsibility, strength and caring."

Mr. Cohen recalled him as a "hard-working student who always put his whole heart into whatever he was doing. He was a person who quietly got a great deal accomplished."

"He was a fun-loving type of kid who was very serious and always worked extremely hard," said Charles E. Shoemaker, who coaches track at Wilde Lake.

Mr. Shoemaker remembered a day when another young man arrived at practice, boasting that he was faster than anyone on the school's team.

"I called Aaron and asked him if he wouldn't mind running a 600-meter race with this kid, who went off real fast. However, Aaron caught up and reeled him in. [Aaron] really put him in his place."

The school's track team plans to dedicate its coming season to Mr. Worley's memory, Mr. Shoemaker said.

Because of his illness, Mr. Worley postponed his enrollment at Bethany College in West Virginia last fall and instead worked at the Bagel Bin in Wilde Lake.

Phillip Levin, a lawyer who coaches the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks' Wilde Lake 6 to 14 wrestling team, and runs marathons to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, suggested that Worley help him coach the wrestling team.

Mr. Levin did not learn about Mr. Worley's illness until last fall, when Mr. Worley ran a 5K race sponsored by the Howard County Striders. He finished last -- to the encouraging cheers of family and friends.

"Our bond really started right about then, because there was this charity that I had been sponsoring and just feel very close to," Mr. Levin told The Sun in an interview last month.

"And then, all of a sudden, there was this person that I knew, that I was becoming closer to, [who] had just finished chemotherapy and treatment for the disease that I had been raising money to fight," he said.

During their wrestling season, the team has cheered for Mr. Worley's recovery.

"Not only do they go, `One, two, three! Wilde Lake!" Mr. Levin said, "they also say `One, two, three! Coach Aaron!' That is their focus. Every match, we wrestle for him."

In addition to participating in sports, Mr. Worley played trumpet and had been a member of the Wilde Lake High School concert band.

Mr. Worley maintained an interest in the Civil War, particularly the study of battlefield strategy.

He was a lifelong resident of Columbia and was a graduate of Howard County public schools.

He attended Alberta Gary United Methodist Church in Columbia.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at South Columbia Baptist Church, 8814 Guilford Road.

Mr. Worley is survived by his parents, John and Ann Worley; his brothers, twins Mark Worley and Bruce Worley, both at home; his paternal grandmother, Helen Worley of Raleigh, N.C.; his maternal grandmother, Lois Mitchell of Kingsport, Tenn.; and several uncles, aunts and cousins.

Memorial donations may be made to the Aaron Worley Scholarship Fund, Howard County Striders, P.O. Box 563, Columbia 21045.

Pamela Woolford, East Columbia neighborhood columnist for the Howard County bureau of The Sun, contributed to this article.

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