News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 1, 2013

Remembering: After crash, boy’s organs gave life to others

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — With a brush in hand, a 13-year-old boy on Sunday looked intently at the image of a friend he lost two years ago.

Inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Caleb Gonser leaned over the table holding the memorial floragraph portrait and gently brushed organic materials on the eyebrow part of the portrait, the image of organ donor and Riley boy Noah Worthington.

Caleb said that working on the eyebrow, the remaining unfinished part of the floragraph, was special “because it’s part of his face, and I get to see it again.”

Caleb Gonser was one of more than a dozen young people who took part in finishing the memorial floragraph portrait of Worthington, who will be honored as part of the Donate Life float in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Noah’s friends and family took part in the special, emotional event.

In addition to Caleb, Noah’s sister, Abby Worthington, also worked on the floragraph, along with Noah’s teammates from Riley All-Star baseball teams.

“He was one of my best friends, and he was really good company,” Caleb said of Noah.

Noah died at an Indianapolis hospital following injuries he sustained in a car accident in 2011. He was 11.

He was a lover of life, music and sports.

“We played baseball together for a long time,” Caleb said.

And it meant a lot to Caleb to take part in finishing the floragraph, which will be one of 81 floragraphs on the float, bearing the images of other organ, eye and tissue donors from 34 states, Korea and Taiwan. The Indiana Organ Procurement Organization chose Noah this year to be honored on the float.

“It’s a really special thing,” Caleb said of the floragraph. “And he should be remembered.”

Noah’s family considers it an honor.

“With Noah being selected to represent the state of Indiana as the organ donor is a huge honor to us,” Wil Worthington, Noah’s father, said. “But it doesn’t just represent Noah. He represents our family. He represents every organ donor in the state of Indiana and every organ donor’s family.”

Noah’s floragraph is made of ground up seeds and flowers. Organic materials included lavender, thyme, coffee and nutmeg, among others. The portrait was also available for public viewing at the church on Sunday.

The floragraph was first assembled in California and was sent to Terre Haute this weekend for the finishing touches on the eyebrow part. After another public viewing in Illinois next week, it will be sent back to California in preparation for the parade.

Wil said his wife chose the picture that was used for Noah’s floragraph.

“It’s my wife’s favorite picture of Noah … so she chose it,” he said.

Rhena Worthington, Noah’s mother, said the picture chosen for Noah’s floragraph was most representative of his personality.  

With tears flowing from her eyes, she said she misses Noah and described her son as always happy. This was why she chose the picture of him with a big smile.

Noah’s family will travel to Pasadena to work on assembling the float — also made up of organic materials. Thirty transplant recipients will ride on the float.

“And when we go out to Pasadena and watch his picture on the float, we will think of every single family in the state of Indiana that has suffered and also given in their time of tragedy,” Wil said.

Noah is remembered by many not only through the floragraph but also in the lives of three children and one adult who received his organs after his death.

One of them, 12-year-old Greer Underwood traveled from Alabama to take part in finishing the floragraph. She received Noah’s heart.

“To have her in the room with us and know that Noah’s heart is beating in her,” was special to the family, Wil said.

 “A miracle occurred through a tragedy. How beautiful is that?” Wil said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299.