Even at the young age of 17, Katlynn Newhouse knew that helping others was the right thing to do. She did not need recognition or applause for her efforts.
Sadly, Newhouse was tragically killed on April 2 when she was hit head-on in a car accident on Highway 8. She was a junior at West County High School.
Funeral services were held April 6. A memorial story was published earlier this week in the Daily Journal in honor of Newhouse. Her family and several teachers, coaches and friends shared special stories and memories about Newhouse.
Newhouse’s employer wants to honor her with a balloon release on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on the parking lot of El Tapatio in Park Hills.
Maricela Rizo-Martines, manager of the Park Hills location, wanted to honor Newhouse, who worked at the business for a little more than a year.
She said one never knows how much they love someone until they become family.
“Katlynn really loved working for me,” said Rizo-Martines, “and we all really loved her.”
Rizo-Martines said Newhouse approached her for a job because she wanted to help pay her dad’s medical bills. So she hired Newhouse, who quickly became one of the customers’ favorite employees.
“She was so great with the people with her amazing personality,” said Rizo-Martines. “Katlynn was always making the customers laugh and making the kids happy.”
She said Katlynn was one of the best. “We all loved her, and family always comes first here.”
In fact, Rizo-Martines said Newhouse was like a daughter to her and often also called her “Mom.”
That Thursday was the last time Rizo-Martines saw Newhouse alive.
“She talked to me,” she said, “and Katlynn went to the gym with my daughter Yasmin.”
On Saturday, Newhouse had not made it to work. By 10 a.m., Rizo-Martines was getting worried. She called and left her a message but received no response.
When she called again, someone answered who Rizo-Martines believed to be a paramedic. He simply informed her that Newhouse had been involved in a car accident.
But it was Newhouse’s mom Angie who called to inform Rizo-Martines that her daughter had been killed in an accident.
That’s when Rizo-Martines completely broke down.
“I was crying all day because it hurt so bad,” she said.
According to Rizo-Martines, Alonso Rizo is the owner of the local El Tapatio restaurants. He makes it a priority to take care of his employees and always treats them like family.
He said Newhouse was such a beautiful, sweet girl. He felt compelled to help the Newhouse family and is personally paying off the balance of his young employee’s funeral.
In addition, the restaurant’s staff, which includes Micky, David, Harrison, Natalie, Drew, Evelin, Luis, Lupe, Chaya, Ricardo and Rizo-Martines, have set up a collection box at the Park Hills location. Money collected from customers and the community will go to Newhouse’s family to help with additional expenses and also to start a memorial scholarship fund in her honor.
West County High School Principal Levi Rawson said Rizo-Martines came up with the idea for Sunday’s balloon release. He said the date and time of the event was shared with all high school students.
The community is invited to attend the balloon release.
“Katlynn was an awesome kid with such a fun-loving personality,” said Rawson. “She always had a smile on her face and made things fun.”
He said he will miss Newhouse’s funny, quirky self every day.
“I will miss seeing her on the volleyball court next fall,” he said. “She was a true West County Bulldog and a great friend to so many students. She will be missed every day!”
West County Middle School teacher Katie Lynch got to know Newhouse when she coached her in volleyball.
“Katlynn always put others first,” she said.
Friend and fellow 11th grader Thomas Kearns agreed. He described Newhouse as someone who always put others before herself.
Ironically, it was Newhouse who comforted other students when they lost their 16-year-old classmate Ethan Bryan in a car accident in September 2020.
“When Ethan passed away, she knew what to say,” said Kearns. “She helped everyone. She was a part of the healing process and now that she’s gone, it’s hard and I realize just how much of that process she helped with.”
Rizo-Martines said she’s going to miss Newhouse so much. “She’ll be in my heart forever.”
“We need to support people and each other,” she said. “You never know when you will need help. We have an absolutely amazing community and I know they will help Katlynn’s family.”
Rizo-Martines made a post earlier in the week on her Facebook page that sums it up: “Be the sunshine, be the supporter, be the laughter, be a Katlynn.”
Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal