Charles P. Diegel

[Age 17] Westminster High School senior was a student athlete known for his enthusiam for learning, passion for life

November 03, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Some schoolmates called him "Charlie Diegel the history beagle."

He decorated his bedroom with posters of Che Guevara and medieval sculpture from The Cloisters museum in New York City. His shower curtain was decorated as a map of the world.

A 17-year-old senior at Westminster High School, Charles Patrick Diegel was killed in an automobile accident while driving to school Oct. 27. At a funeral Mass this week, he was remembered by his English teacher Kevin L. Vasile for his "determination to be kind and cheerful, a natural sense of humor with an easy smile and a balanced and self-assured demeanor anyone would benefit from imitating."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Westminster, Mr. Diegel attended West Middle School before enrolling at Westminster High, where his mother, Denise Wilson Diegel, teaches Spanish and French.

His teachers said Mr. Diegel was a good student who had taken advanced placement courses in history and had sent applications to Hamilton College and Fordham University.

"He wasn't a star in school, but he was probably going to reach his potential in college - or later," his mother said yesterday. "We were given the gift of seeing the wonderful person he was going to become. He had a passion for knowledge and loved being an individual."

He belonged to his school's academic and debate teams, and the Spanish, French and youth-and-government clubs. He made the school's honor roll, competed on the tennis team and enjoyed rock climbing, whitewater rafting and caving.

"Charlie was always kind and considerate toward the members of his team and opposing teams. The first day of tryouts his freshman year, he took an interest in all his teammates and cheered for everyone until it was his turn to play," Mr. Vasile said in his eulogy. "When we think of Charlie the student athlete, we will remember his competitiveness and resilience on the court and his compassion and kindness toward others off the court."

In the weeks before his death, Mr. Diegel had read the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby. For a school study tournament, he dressed in a 1920s suit and bow tie appropriate to the story. In the eulogy, his teacher said the costume was typical of his student's personality and desire to make study fun.

"I caution you here, the point is not for us to be sad; Charlie would not want that from us," his teacher said. "Charlie wants us to remember and perhaps even emulate his unbridled enthusiasm for education and his passion for life."

He was a founding member of Boy Scout Troop 2007 at St. Benjamin's Lutheran Church in Westminster, and suggested the troop number because it was the year he would graduate from high school. He belonged to Scouting's Order of the Arrow and had hopes of attaining Eagle Scout status.

"We always thought he was special, but we learned a lot more about him through what his friends told us," said his father, Karl "Scott" Diegel, a computer software consultant and leader of the Scout troop.

This summer, Mr. Diegel visited France with a student group and wrote a reflection of the trip for a writing assignment. He concluded the paper, "I have contacted the friends I made, and I will see them again. So the feeling I had of loss was not in the end true."

Classmates and other mourners filled St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Westminster on Tuesday for the funeral Mass, which included The Lord's Prayer sung in Spanish in recognition of his mother's work with Westminster's Hispanic community.

In addition to his parents, survivors include his paternal grandmother, Floy Diegel of Cockeysville; his maternal grandparents, Charles and Joanne Knauss of Spencertown, N.Y.; his maternal great-grandmother, Josephine Maher of Boston; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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