Remembering Clymer’s school chief one year after murder

Although Saturday marked a year since the death of Clymer Central School Superintendent Keith Reed Jr., the memory of a funny, optimistic, caring man lives on.

Reed, 51, had been reported missing by colleagues and friends on Sept. 23, 2012. Early the next morning, sheriff’s deputies returned to the home with a K-9 unit and, after a short search, discovered Reed’s body about 100 feet from his home. He had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

It was determined Reed had passed away Sept. 21.

While the sheriff’s office worked to find answers, the Clymer community came together to grieve the death of a man it had known as its superintendent for the previous 10 months. A Facebook page dedicated to Reed was flooded as students, friends, family and colleagues came together to remember the man he was. As of Friday, the page had more than 3,100 “likes,” and was still being updated with remembrances and news on the case.

Days after Reed’s body was found, hundreds of his colleagues, students and community members gathered at Clymer United Methodist Church for a candlelight ceremony. By the end of the week, mourners had packed the United Congregational Methodist Church in Salamanca for the funeral of the Clymer Central School superintendent.

A year after Reed’s death, he is still in the thoughts and prayers of those who had known him.

“It’s been no picnic,” said Keith Reed Sr., Reed’s father. “I’m looking at it from a father’s point of view, but I think he was one great kid. I know he would have done a lot of people a lot of good if he was still alive.”

REMEMBERING

Reed was a graduate of Salamanca High School Class of 1979. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University, before earning two master’s degrees – one in education and the other in administration – from Mansfield University. At the time of his death, he was enrolled in the Superintendent Development Program through Oswego State University.

Reed began his career in 1984, as a business and distributive education teacher at Horseheads Central School. He became the intervention specialist for Horseheads High School in 1995. In 1997, he was appointed assistant principal at Campbell Savona Middle/High School, and then assistant high school principal in Horseheads in 2000.

In 2005, Reed became principal for Sherburne-Earlville Central School District in Sherburne, N.Y. In 2011, he became the superintendent at Clymer Central School.

“We got about 300 sympathy cards (after Reed’s death),” Keith Sr. told the OBSERVER. “I can’t believe the wonderful things that some of those letters were written to us revealed. Nobody’s perfect, but he thought he had found himself just the ideal job. He wanted to stay there until he retired.”

NOTES OF

SYMPATHY

Keith Sr. shared some of the notes the family received with the OBSERVER, requesting names be kept anonymous. Each letter shared personal stories and anecdotes, reflecting on the man Reed was.

“In school, Mr. Reed’s office door was usually open. I could poke my head in, and if he was on the phone, he would wave me in. He was often on the phone with one of his gals. Keith never was shy about telling his daughters he loved them. And he did love you, Katelyn, Megan and Allison,” one teacher wrote.

The teacher went on in the letter to share a story of their own battle with sickness.

“A couple weeks later, Keith called my house and wanted to stop over; he had something for me. He had seen a survivor pocket stone and picked it up for me. Again, another unexpected kindness from my boss. I went up to the school today, which is where I get my doses of normalcy. The messages on the walls about Mr. Reed were so heartfelt. I was teary after reading just a few. Those students loved him. The staff loved him. The town loved him.”

Another letter shared a story about Reed, where he had told the author his favorite number was four. Reed had told the author he belonged at Clymer Central School, because the phone number was “all fours.” When he became superintendent, his mailbox number was four.

“When I tell you that Keith was the finest administrator I knew in my 36-year career, it is no exaggeration,” that person wrote. “He was exceptional because he offered respect and even affection to his students and his teachers. He brought joy into the building, and he greatly admired anyone and everyone who was giving his or her best efforts. … We are the honored and privileged ones that got to know and love him for the last 10 months.”

A former student wrote to Reed’s family following his death as well, saying Reed may had saved the student’s life.

“After graduation, I spent a year in college, but quickly fell into a depression and felt lost in the world,” the former student wrote. “When I was about 19 years old, I took a drug overdose. After doing so, I regretted my actions and reached out to Mr. Reed. He left his house, picked me up, drove me to the emergency room and stayed with me throughout my treatment and subsequent admission to the hospital. He may have saved my life. Today, I am a successful registered nurse.”

Seventh- and eighth-grade students from Clymer Central School put together a tribute to Reed following his death as well.

“Mr. Reed was a nice man,” wrote an eighth-grader. “I remember one day during lunch, he came down and was arm wrestling kids, even though we weren’t supposed to. He would let everyone win.”

“Mr. Reed was awesome. I was walking down the hall with the band teacher, and we stopped at his office. The band teacher and Mr. Reed were talking, and when they were done, Mr. Reed said to me, ‘Kid, you are one hell of a drummer.’ We laughed,” a seventh-grade student wrote.

“Mr. Reed was the nicest guy and superintendent ever,” wrote another eighth-grader. “He would always come to pep band and games and cheer us on. He supported our band so much, and it meant a lot. He would help us unload the bus with all the instruments. He was a really great guy.”

“Mr. Reed bought me my flute with his own money,” a seventh-grade student wrote. “He gave me high fives and smiled at me every time I saw him. He cared about every single student.”

“When I went to his office when I was in trouble, he gave me a Coke, and he was pretty cool,” another student wrote about Reed.

“Mr. Reed was a great man. He helped us through being bullied,” wrote an eighth-grade student. “He treated us like his own children. The school will never be the same without him.”

A Clymer Central School English teacher added to the sentiments of the students.

“Without Mr. Reed, I wouldn’t be here at Clymer,” the teacher wrote. “He was vital in bringing me in, and I am grateful for it. I will miss both his laughter and wisdom equally.”

GREAT RESOLVE

Keith Sr. also provided the OBSERVER with several inspirational speeches Reed had given following an August 2008 motorcycle accident. In one of his speeches, Reed called his story “a story of life, of death, and of life again.”

On that August afternoon, a truck failed to see Reed on his motorcycle, pulling out in front of him. Reed laid down his Yamaha V Star 1100 at 55 miles per hour.

“As I woke up on the ground, I heard a voice,” Reed said in one of his speeches. “The woman in the car behind me was a nurse. She told me that everything was going to be fine, and I just needed to be still. If you know me, you know that sometimes I don’t listen very well. And I’m not real good at lying still. ‘I need to get up,’ I said. ‘Why can’t I get up?'”

Reed’s injuries from the accident included two shattered wrists, broken ribs, a crushed sternum, his jaw broken on both sides, left eye socket blown out, punctured kidney, collapsed lung and his right leg broken in five places. He had also severed his femoral artery. He was placed in a medically induced coma.

“He died nine times in that emergency room,” Keith Sr. told the OBSERVER. “He was in a coma for seven weeks. They told him he’d never walk again; they wanted to cut his leg right off. He was just a mangled mess. The following September, he called here one day, and he said, ‘Well mom, I played tennis today. And I won.’ And yet, they wanted to cut his leg off and he wouldn’t let them. That’s just the way he was.”

“You could have heard a pin drop when I laid in that bed, unable to sit up and explain to the doctors that I was not only going to walk, but I intended to return to work this school year,” Reed said in a speech. “All I can say now is: Here I am … a man who limp-walks.”

In 2010, Reed told another newspaper he was a different person than he was prior to his accident.

“You gain a new life appreciation,” he told The Evening Sun. “Something like this can hurt and it changes you. You can focus on the pain every day or let it remind you that you made it.”

AWAITING TRIAL

Days after the discovery of Reed’s body, law enforcement officials announced they were looking for Anthony Robert Taglianetti II, a Dale City, Va., resident, as a suspect in connection with the murder. Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace had reported the men were “not unfamiliar with each other.”

On Sept. 28, 2012, the day Reed was laid to rest, Taglianetti was located and apprehended by members of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force and the Harrisonburg Police Department in the state of Virginia.

On Oct. 2, 2012, Taglianetti, the only suspect in the homicide Reed, did not waive extradition to New York. Taglianetti then failed to file a writ of habeas corpus in Prince William County, Va., where he was being held. He was extradited to New York on Dec. 18, 2012. The next day, he pleaded innocent to a second-degree murder charge.

Jury selection for the case began Thursday, following months of hearings, conferences and preparation. Judge John T. Ward has told jurors he expected jury selection to last “a couple weeks.” Additionally, Ward said testimony is expected to begin the first week of October, continue throughout the month, and potentially spill into November.

Keith Sr. said he has no intention to appear in court, although he is following the case. As for whether he believes the trial will bring closure to the family, Keith Sr. said he doesn’t know.

“It’s a fact. It happened,” he said. “You’ve just got to roll with the punches, and handle it the best you can.”

Comments on this article may be sent to editorial@observertoday.com.