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THE VICTIMS Doctor, grandson, slain outside the Jewish Community Center, ‘in heaven together’

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, April 13, 2014, at 11:39 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, April 20, 2014, at 7:21 a.m.

Reat Griffin Underwood loved life. A freshman at Blue Valley High School, he participated in debate and theater and was working toward the rank of Eagle Scout.

On Sunday afternoon, he was with his grandfather outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park when the vehicle they were in was struck by gunfire. Reat’s grandfather, William Lewis Corporon, who had taken the teen there to audition for a contest, died at the scene. Reat, 14, died later at a hospital.

A third victim, Terri LaManno, was killed shortly afterward outside the Village Shalom senior living community, less than a mile south of the community center. LaManno, 53, of Kansas City, went there every Sunday to visit her mother, a resident of the facility, authorities said.

Reat and his grandfather were Methodists. LaManno was a Catholic.

“This is obviously a horrible, horrible thing that you wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through,” said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, where the family attends. “They are really remarkable people. Being with them, what stood out was their strength of faith and confidence that this was not God’s will.”

Mindy Corporon, who is Reat’s mother and William Corporon’s daughter, attended an interfaith prayer service Sunday night at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park.

Near the end of the service, she went to the podium.

“I am the mother of the son who was killed,” she said in a calm voice.

After the shooting, she said, “I came upon the scene very, very quickly, before the police, before the ambulances. And I knew immediately that they were in heaven.

“I know they are in heaven together.”

She said her dad took Reat to the community center to audition for the KC SuperStar competition because she was attending her younger son’s lacrosse game.

“We were having life,” she said. “And I want you to know that we are going to have more life.”

A statement issued by the family said Reat “had a beautiful voice … (and) a passion for life, and touched so many people in his young age.”

Last fall, he performed in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” He loved spending time camping and hunting with his grandfather, father and brother.

“Both Reat and Dr. Corporon were very proud supporters of the University of Oklahoma and its sports teams,” the family said.

Corporon was a doctor who practiced medicine in Marlow and Duncan, Okla., from 1976 through 2003. He and his wife then moved to the Kansas City area to be closer to their grandchildren.

“He was a well-loved physician in the Johnson County community, cherished his family and more than anything had a passion for caring for others,” the family’s statement said. “Dr. Corporon leaves behind his wife of 49 years and a loving and devoted family and extended family.”

The family thanked the church and school community “for the outpouring of love and support” and asked for privacy as they mourn their losses.

Blue Valley School Superintendent Tom Trigg said in an email to district patrons Sunday night that he met Reat earlier this year at an annual Blue Valley Educational Foundation breakfast.

“Reat sang the national anthem to begin the breakfast, and his talents were on full display that morning,” Trigg said. “I found Reat to be an engaging and exceptional young man. The school district has truly lost a great young person. Our hearts go out to the families who are dealing with this senseless tragedy.”

Trigg said Reat and some other high school students in the district were attending the non-school-related event at the Jewish Community Center at the time of the shooting.

“As a result, a number of families have been impacted district-wide,” he said. “As a community we will come together to support each other. We encourage you to be especially sensitive and offer support to your child during this time.”

Though school is not in session today, Trigg said support would be available at the district’s high schools for students who want to speak with a counselor.

“We are a strong community and will do everything possible to support each other and our students,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all families who have been impacted by this tragedy.”

Sunday marked the second tragedy in a month involving a Blue Valley High School student. In March, senior Alex Fraser was seriously injured in a swimming accident while on spring break in Mexico. The accident left him with a spinal injury, and he is in a rehabilitation center in Colorado. Students gathered for a sendoff for him earlier this month.

Twitter was lighting up Sunday afternoon and evening with tweets from Reat’s friends and classmates.

“My prayers go out to the Underwood family,” said one. “Reat will be missed by the BV family. Heaven gained a truly talented and wonderful angel.”

“Reat was a gift and I am blessed to have know him,” said another.

A Facebook page called Wear White for Reat called for students to wear white to class on Tuesday to honor him.

Reat “was almost never seen without a smile on his face,” the site said.

Other Blue Valley schools said they would join in, as did students at other school districts.

“I don’t go to BV but I do speak for all of Louisburg High School when I say we hope for a swift recovery for you all,” wrote one student. “From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry for your loss. I think LHS has your backs, and several of us will be wearing white tomorrow at school. I wish you all the best.”

Dreyah Cushman, a junior at Blue Valley North, said she worked with Reat at debate tournaments this year.

“He was a novice debater, and my partner and I would mentor him at the tournaments,” Cushman said. “He was very smart. He would use these large vocabulary words. And he’d make us laugh in between the debate rounds.”

Cushman said when they would offer debate advice to Reat, he immediately accepted it.

“He was very, very serious during debate rounds, and he wanted to win,” she said. “We told him he should be moving to varsity by his sophomore year.”

Hamilton said he had confirmed Reat at Church of the Resurrection last year.

“He was an active volunteer in the church,” he said. “He volunteered in the Kids COR program.”

The family was surrounded Sunday night by relatives and friends, Hamilton said.

“They have a great network who want to be there and care for them,” he said. “They said we have the utter confidence that our son and dad are together with God now; that brings them comfort. Their hope is that something good will come from this. This evil thing this person has done will not have the final word here.”

He said the church will have a memorial service for Reat and his grandfather on Friday.

“Somehow it seems fitting that on Good Friday, when Christ’s own death was taking place and yet out of that horrible evil there was going to be something good that would come from it,” he said. “And that’s really part of what we’re looking at here.”

To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to jthomas@kcstar.com. To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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