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Student Lunches Help Bartlesville Deal With Loss

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Tyler Teague (center) helped popularize the Wednesday BHS luncheons. He is pictured with fellow students  Devin Randall (left) and Jacob Keeler (right). Tyler Teague (center) helped popularize the Wednesday BHS luncheons. He is pictured with fellow students Devin Randall (left) and Jacob Keeler (right).

NewsOn6.com

BARTLESVILLE, OK -- Wednesday lunchtime gatherings in Bartlesville always draw a high school crowd.

Each Wednesday students from Bartlesville Public Schools gather at the home of Dr. Steven and Becky Armstrong. They are the parents of two Bartlesville school students and supporters of the school district.

The Bartlesville High School lunches started at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year, and a late Bartlesville student was an eager supporter. Tyler Teague, killed in a hunting-related accident in October, promoted the lunches with other members of the junior class.

"He loved it," said Tyler's mother Christy McPhail.

"The first day Becky said, 'We're going to have food and friends for a weekly lunch,' he was all about it. I loved it because it gave me a chance to see him in the middle of the day with his buddies.

"They were eating in a safe environment and having fun. It was a mom's dream," McPhail said.

The Armstrong's home is located in the Colonial Estates addition, about a five-minute drive from campus. Once students get there, they can grab a plate, jump in line and then enjoy a free meal. On warm days, the pool is open. There's plenty to watch on television and up in Jack's room – for those who are feeling particularly feisty – there are boxing gloves and a heavy bag.

For a one-hour lunch period in the middle of a school day, it's hard to beat.

On Wednesday, tacos were on the menu. Several Bartlesville parents contributed to the luncheon with main dishes, sides and desserts.

These days, the BHS lunches typically draw 35 to 40 students, most of them from the school's tightly-knit junior class. Of course, as Armstrong is quick to point out, any BHS student who is interested is invited to attend.

"My son Dalton, who is a senior, always says no," said parent Tracey Randall. "But my son Devin, who is a junior, is always there."

On the evening of Oct. 8, Tyler Teague was tragically killed in a home accident. A member of the BHS varsity baseball team, he was a popular student in a class which had already had to deal with tragedy. In November of 2008, Scott Mauldin was killed in a car accident, and Eric Dean was critically hurt. Dean later died of his injuries.

Both boys would have been juniors this year. It is still a common sight at the lunches to see students wearing special Bruin football T-shirts in honor of Scott and Eric, who were both on the team.

The lunches have helped the school community deal with the loss of three class members. Though the gatherings were put on hold for a while after Tyler's death, the tradition was resumed on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

"The kids flocked here to heal for that lunch," says Armstrong. "We had more than 40 of them for that lunch."

Tyler's mother, Christy McPhail, asked if she could attend. She is still a regular at the lunches, and students always seem happy to see her.

McPhail's step-son, junior Blake McPhail, attends and she often brings along her three-year-old daughter, Gracie. The girl often asks about her brother, who she still affectionately calls Ty-Ty.

During a recent BHS lunch, Gracie spotted a boy about Tyler's height with a close-cropped haircut similar to his as well. He was sitting alone, so she grabbed a plate and sidled up next to him.

"It was sweet," recalls McPhail. "She just kind of sat there beside him."

There's always plenty of comfort food available at the BHS lunches.

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