COPPERAS COVE — Below an overcast Saturday sky stood Chuck Stephans, whose somber face was still behind black shades, which were above his black shirt with the image of a smiling, adolescent girl. The image of that girl was beside text, which read, “I love you so much.”
That girl’s name was Sarah Stephans, 18, who died May 12 in a car accident in Williamson County.
Stephans was among dozens who rode in the 2018 Cove House Classic Bike Tour at First Baptist Church, 300 W. Ave. B. As cyclists whirred past him and young children frolicked, the memory of his stepdaughter still sat upon his shoulders.
“People really loved her. Everyone she met, they adored her,” Stephans said. “She had that warm personality. People were drawn to her.”
His sentiments were shared by Sean Royal, a Marine veteran and teacher in the Copperas Cove Independent School District.
Royal undertook an hours-long, 65-mile cycling stretch with a U.S. flag strapped to his bike, representing Flags4Fallen, an organization that recruits 5K,10K, half-marathon and marathon runners to carry U.S. flags in honor of those who have fallen.
After the ride, Royal spoke with Stephans, and the two men smiled. The U.S. flag was given to the Copperas Cove High School Junior ROTC Bulldog Battalion color guard.
It was folded and presented to Stephans in Sarah’s honor.
“The community has turned out, and we’ve had a lot of support,” Stephans said. "She was a big loss to her family, friends and the community.”
Royal knew Sarah as a student with a bright future in nursing. Sarah was also an impactful suicide awareness advocate, according to Royal.
Sarah’s peers heard of her untimely passing before anybody else, Royal said. The news stung the teacher.
“It really affected me, because she touched so many people in the community. She touched the kids in a way other presentations haven’t,” Royal said about Sarah’s activism. “The kids have held onto the sadness longer than they would have for a relative stranger.”