The beginning of 2009 seemed to be the average, expected year for the North Star High School freshman, John Austin Blough, better known by all as Johnny. At just fifteen years old, he was a leader in and out of the classroom, excelling academically and athletically. It was safe to say he was an all-around great student. Johnny was one of those individuals who could light up the room with their presence. He had one of those hard-to-find great personalities that was liked and respected by all, not only by the student body and his peers, but also by teachers and school staff.
Johnny was a dear and genuine friend to many; his personality was contagious.
Other than being a good friend, Johnny was also a son, brother and uncle, among many other titles. Known for his love of Converse shoes, he would not replace them with a new pair till he had worn the soles off them. Even then, he would have most likely of continued to try to wear the old beat up shoes if not for his mother.
Johnny had a smile that reflected his deep passion for God. His friends called him “Bible Blough” because he would often be seen carrying his bible around with him in school and would read it whenever he had a chance. He also had a love for Tom Petty.
In late March 2009, Johnny, along with a group of close friends, attended a concert in Pittsburgh, PA. The concert was held on the evening of March 27th.
During the early morning hours of March 28th, while the group of friends was returning home from the concert, Johnny’s life was tragically and unexpectedly taken away. Just a few miles from making it home, a drunk driver slammed into the vehicle that Johnny was riding in.
The tragedy was senseless. The vehicle Johnny was in, was stopped at a red light. The drunk driver recklessly crashed into the car, not once touching his brakes, causing a three-vehicle crash. In total there were six individuals who sustained injuries in the crash.
There was one fatality.
Johnny Austin Blough perished at the scene instantly from blunt force trauma to the head and chest. The fifteen-year-old boy would have been home and in his own bed within fifteen minutes of the traffic light changing to green. Instead, he had his life taken from him in an instant.
Family and friends would never be able to see Johnny again due to the trauma he had endured. Johnny’s parents, sisters, brother; not a single person was given the chance for that closure because one individual thought that he could make it home after a night out.
The drunk driver’s blood alcohol level was well over twice the legal limit in the state of Pennsylvania. He was charged with aggravated assault by vehicle, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, general impairment, driving under the influence of alcohol, simple assault, reckless endangerment and summary traffic violations, with a five to fifteen-year sentence. After serving five years, the offender was released from prison and placed on parole for the remainder of his sentence. Although Johnny’s family was happy to see justice served, it will never take away the pain or make losing Johnny any easier for his parents or siblings.
Family and friends built a roadside memorial along Route 30 in Laughlintown, PA near the bridge that the crash occurred. A sign there reads “Do it for Johnny”, memorializing John Austin Blough. The memorial includes orange flowers — Johnny’s favorite color — a small green-and-white banner for his school North Star High School, a small wooden cross inscribed with the dates of Blough’s birth and death and a steel cross that has his name “Johnny” along with the team logos for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Penguins and the Steelers inscribed into it. A pair of Converse shoes hang from the cross as well.
Johnny was only 15 and just starting his life.
One person made the decision to drive while impaired which took away a young man’s future. Ever since Johnny’s life was taken, his family and friends have lived by the saying “Do it for Johnny”. Johnny’s life has been remembered in many ways.
Johnny’s family and friends honored his life through an annual alumni football game from 2011-2015. The family also adopted the road their house is on to honor his life. Each year, on the anniversary of his death, his family gets together to walk and pick up the trash and litter along the adopted roadway. North Star High School honored Johnny by naming the football stadium press box the “Johnny Blough Memorial Press Box”. The North Star Wrestling team remembers Johnny by giving an award every year called the “Johnny Blough Bonus Award” to honor his memory. There have been scholarships given out in memory of Johnny as well as many donations made in memory of him.
Drunk driving is 100% preventable!
Please, think twice before you drink and drive. You can join Johnny’s family in remembering his life too by spreading the message that driving while under the influence of any substance is dangerous and unacceptable. #doitforjohnny
“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. —James O’Barr
MADD provides free services to victims of drunk and drugged driving because we help survivors survive. If you or someone you know has been impacted by drunk or drugged driving, or you would like to learn more about how to support Mothers Against Drunk Driving, please call the Pennsylvania State office at (610) 825-4902 or email PA.State@madd.org.