Photo provided
This photo of Hamilton Heights High School senior Kalen Hart and her prom date, Cathedral High School junior Lendon Byram of Noblesville, was taken May 1 before they were both tragically killed in a crash on the way to Heights’ prom. This photo was posted on Facebook.
Photo provided This photo of Hamilton Heights High School senior Kalen Hart and her prom date, Cathedral High School junior Lendon Byram of Noblesville, was taken May 1 before they were both tragically killed in a crash on the way to Heights’ prom. This photo was posted on Facebook.
There were so many things to remember about Kalen Hart and Lendon Byram.
So many things that would make you smile.
Kalen Hart, 18, Arcadia, was loving, forgiving, nonjudgmental and welcomed everyone with open arms. Her laugh was infectious.
Lendon Byram, 17, Noblesville, was smart, funny and a genuine storyteller. He had a big smile and “wild crazy hair.” And he lived life to the fullest.
Last week, I attended funerals of both of the teens, prom dates, who were tragically killed in a car accident on their way to Hamilton Heights High School prom on May 1 in northern Hamilton County.
Choirs sang. Friends and family told stories. And families laughed, cried and danced.
There was standing-room only Friday afternoon at both Kalen Hart’s service at Randall and Roberts Funeral Home on Westfield Road in Noblesville and at Lendon Byram’s service on Saturday morning at Cicero Christian Church.
Just seeing the great number of people who crowded into the venues, the families could not help but feel the presence, the love and the prayers of friends, relatives, neighbors, fellow students and the entire community who came to celebrate the lives of the two teens.
“We find strength in each other,” said Fred Knoll, a pastor at White River Christian Church, who led the service for Kalen Hart. The service had two things to accomplish, to celebrate her life and to celebrate her memories, Knoll said. The family had requested Knoll to perform the service, remembering him from long ago when the family came to the church when Kalen was a newborn.
The Hamilton Heights senior Kalen Rae Hart is from a large blended family, with two sets of parents, two sets of brothers and sisters, and has already been an aunt multiple times, her dad, Galen Hart, said. He was the first of her family to share stories.
“She didn’t like playing with dolls and didn’t chase boys like her sisters,” he said. Kalen enjoyed wearing hoodies that were too big for her, ripped blue jeans, and “she had to have a couple of new Vans tennis shoes every year,” her dad said.
“We are here to celebrate Kalen’s 18 years of life and to celebrate the memories she left us with and the things she said and did to touch our hearts,” said her dad after singing a few bars of “I’ll Fly Away,” his voice trembling. Over the past days before the funeral, he said some told him that “God has a bigger plan and he does everything for a reason. Well, right now I’m angry, I’m angry at God right now. I’m upset and I’m hurting. Right now, I want God to come down and look me in the eye and tell me what great plan he had that would take Kalen and Lendon away from all of their family and friends, with such short lives.”
He said, “I want you to know how proud I am, proud of the amazing person you had become,” the dad told his daughter. “In the last few days, I have learned things about you I didn’t know. I have learned about all of the friends you have and all of the people you have touched in your short life. You’re so much more open minded than me, and you have a great heart. I learned that you were president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at school. I was not shocked; I just wish you would have felt comfortable enough to talk to me about it. You are my baby and one of the most special gifts God ever gave to me.”
Jody Conaway said, “I feel blessed to be her mom.” She recalled the morning of the prom, her daughter, getting ready at home before going to get her hair done, and wrote her thoughts in a letter that she read to Kalen at the service. “My beautiful Tinky Rae,” she called her daughter, whose middle name was Rae. “As I sit writing this, it has been 109 hours, 61 minutes and 34 seconds since I got that dreaded call from your dad (a lieutenant at the Sheriff’s Department, which made a large showing at the funeral) …  I didn’t say ‘I love you’ as we said our goodbyes. Instead, I said, ‘Have an amazing time. Text me so I know you’re OK.” Mom didn’t want to get ‘lovey-dovey in front of her daughter’s friends. “But my baby girl, I so wish I had,” the mom said. “You would have rolled your beautiful blue eyes, but I don’t care. I would give absolutely anything to go back to May 1, 2021, at 10:39 a.m.”
She said, “You were the very best parts of your dad and I all wrapped up into a 4-foot, 8-inch steadfast ball of pure perfection.”
Jody’s husband, Rob Conaway, said his stepdaughter Kalen always wore her heart on her sleeve. He said the family has gotten so many messages from new Heights students, who always felt welcomed by Kalen. Hamilton Heights Superintendent Derek Arrowood, who attended both teens’ funerals, described Kalen, in a letter to student families, “as a caring and kind young woman with a bright infectious smile and personality. She loved music and singing … Like most seniors, she was excited for prom and graduation and heading off to college to pursue a degree in education or marketing ....” Jennifer Kitzmiller, Heights’ choir teacher, also wrote that Kalen was initially afraid of her own voice, “but it didn’t take her long to grow into a confident soprano” in the school choir, whose members sang at the funeral. Rob Conaway read the letters aloud.
“My sister always had a smile on her face no matter what mood she was in,” said Kyleigh Barton. “There was never a dull moment.”
Sister Bailey Burnworth read a letter from Kalen’s best friend, who called Kalen “always the life of the party.” They loved watching movies and cartoons and enjoyed their “Walmart adventures” and “chocolate milk obsessions” and late nights playing “Pokemon Go.”
Burnworth shared her own memories, too, including how they always jammed out and danced to the B-52’s “Love Shack,” Kalen’s favorite song, which they then played at the service on a cell phone speakerphone while family members danced in front of the guests and lightened the mood.
“Thank you for making us laugh. Thank you for being real. I think it’s what Kalen would have wanted,” Pastor Knoll said.
At Lendon Byram’s service on Saturday morning, the Cathedral Choir from Cathedral High School where he was a student, sang the opening song, Oceans,” based on the account of Jesus walking on water in the Bible, and the closing songs, “Remember Me” and “Love Will Hold Us Together.”
Pastor Mark Knapp said, “You are a very important part of this celebration” as he gave the opening prayer for Lendon’s service. Before the funeral, he visited Lendon’s room, which had his collection of comics, and his artwork, which was also featured in the funeral program. His room was filled with books that he absorbed and enjoyed, and journaled as he read.
Cathedral High School social studies teacher Anthony Ernst was the first to come to the podium to talk about his student Lendon. “I was fortunate enough as a teacher to teach Lendon not once, but twice, in two different classes, in his favorite subject, History. I knew from the very start we would become close. Lendon’s personality is one that when he was in, he was all in, and Lendon was all in.” Lendon was one of Ernst’s most enthusiastic students who knew and loved history. His freshman year, Lendon asked, “How soon before we get to the Romans?” And Ernst went on to share more of their conversations in history class.
The teacher said that Lendon (the son of Rick Byram and Sumer Sharp-Bryam of Noblesville) became close with several of his classmates, including Hagan McClelland. “Hagan and Lendon were the equivalency of Carl Max and Friedrich Engels for our class, a Batman and Robin, if you will. Their enthusiastic philosopher spirit was the way of Lendon and Hagan as well,” said Ernst of the classmates who went on to form a political philosophy club at Cathedral, “which I know they were both very proud of,” he said.
“Lendon and I also shared a love of music,” said Ernst, who always tried to play music in his classroom for his students, to kick start their day. “Lendon appreciated this gesture, but what I called rock, Lendon called Kidz bop. Lendon’s love of metal was a little bit too heavy for me.”
His sophomore year, Lendon took a European history class with Ernst. “It was evident in every essay, every paper, every conversation I had with Lendon that he was brilliant as a student who knew his way around the subject matter of history….”
What’s important here what I say today isn’t how smart Lendon was or how well he could write. It went beyond that. Lendon’s gift was in as much as gentle nature … Lendon’s ability to converse with just about anyone served him well.” Ernst described Lendon as “kind” and “charismatic” and “big-hearted.”
McClelland, one of Lendon’s closest friends, got up and spoke. “He and I actually had just about everything in common with each other. We could talk about history and philosophy and music and just laugh about the same things for hours.”
They both did speech and debate together at Cathedral and Lendon had qualified to go to nationals in June. McClelland recalled one time of how he tried to set his friend up with an easy question. But after giving Lendon a question for which he was prepared, he tried to stump Lendon with a very difficult question. However, Lendon didn’t even flinch as he correctly responded to the question with ease, giving “a perfect answer,” he said. “He knew it.”
McClelland said everything he learned from Lendon Byram “will stay with me my whole life.” He said, I am thankful for all of my time with Lendon which set the standard for what a best friend really is.”
Cathedral teacher Jeanne Malone, Lendon’s speech and debate coach, shared some entertaining memories, including that Lendon didn’t care for wearing a required coat and tie for the competitions. And how it seemed a chore to have Lendon keep his “wild crazy hair” out of his face, which was part of the rules.
“A favorite memory from this season was Lendon charging in … five minutes before he was to go live on camera in his event,” she said. “He was dressed in sweats; hair was wet.”
He was a genuine storyteller who would keep up a judge's attention for the required seven minutes, she said, and he reminded her of the main character in the 1986 movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
He would also tell Mrs. Malone, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Aaron Rodgers and Elliott Rodgers, both cousins of Lendon, an only child, reminisced about the family Monopoly games and Xbox games they’d play. They considered him a brother.
Another classmate Ashleyn Lucas and Lendon Byram had German class together their freshman year. They sat at the same table group together. “He thought I was really weird, and I was terrified of him,” she recalled. An exchange student had taught Lendon how to ask “Why are you so ugly? in German. And that’s how Lendon broke the ice with her. They were friends immediately and ever since. “From that day forward, we had this weird brother, sister relationship where we insulted each other incessantly, but we loved each other just the same,” she said. “I’ve been given something not a lot of people have, and I thank my lucky stars for him,” Ashleyn Lucas said. “Lendon knew me so much better than anyone else ever will and only because I could always be myself around him.” She said they had “absolutely nothing in common.” We cannot talk about music or history or philosophy….” She said, “His presence lit up my world every single day. A day did not go by without us having a really weird, silly conversation.”
She enjoyed the little things, including their trips to get ice cream, and telling him that the sunrise was really pretty, to his reply, “I know; I was just about to tell you.”
She said, “He always had something to say to make me smile, and I never got a chance to actually thank him for it.”
Lucas finished reiterating by sharing, she said, “How lucky I am to be able to stand up here today to tell you guys about my best friend. I will miss him for the rest of my life ….”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.