Ill mom gets to see son graduate

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home High School senior Brandon Courteau is set to graduate this Friday but he’s already received his diploma – for a few seconds that is.

Courteau’s mother, Felicia Ann Smith, 51, is in Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis with what doctors say is terminal lung and brain cancer, her mother, Joan Smith said.

Smith said school officials were aware of the situation and on Thursday, May 26, Principal Pat Stineff and Assistant Principal Keith Winslow decided that Felicia should see her son graduate.

Stineff said Winslow came up with the idea of going to Corvallis and doing a private commencement ceremony at the hospital.

“We picked a day, we did it and she appreciated it,” Stineff said, reluctantly, when pressed for details by a newspaper reporter.

“Not to see him graduate is a blow. It’s just a hard, hard thing.”

Felicia has been enthusiastic in her support of her son, who has been a key contributor on the water polo and swim teams the last two years and has been a top performer for the Forestry Club this year, named the overall Jack and Technical Jack at the 2011 State Forestry Competition, which means he outscored all the other competitors in the event.

Felicia, who was diagnosed with brain cancer a year ago, was a regular at water polo and swim competitions and often helped with the scoreboard operations. She had a seizure a month ago and doctors found that tumors in her brain were inoperable.

Joan Smith said the prognosis is that her daughter has days or weeks left. “She could go at any time.”

She said Stineff dressed in her academic regalia for the presentation, which was an actual graduation, although she took Brandon’s diploma back to give him again at the general ceremony on Friday. She said Felicia recognized Stineff, though she thought Winslow was a doctor “spying on her.”

Smith said people who criticize things that happen at the high school and its personnel need to understand that “they’ll go the second mile for you. That’s what this town needs to hear about. There are still people who care.”

“What I was in awe of was that they made the trip, which took at least three hours, on the second-busiest day of the year,” she said. “It went off without a hitch. It was just perfect.”