FORT WAYNE — On Wednesday night, longtime West Noble coach and teacher Chuck Schlemmer died in a Fort Wayne hospital.
According to a Facebook post from his daughter, Liz, just after 10:30 a.m. Thursday, she wrote that her father died from his injuries sustained after being hit by a U-Haul truck on Aug. 16.
“My dad’s heart stopped beating at 9:28 last night,” Liz Schlemmer wrote. “He had such a strong heart and lung capacity that even with a collapsed lung, he went on breathing and beating nearly five hours after doctors removed the ventilator. He died in a more natural way, without tubes or wires, with his wife and kids there — as he might have wanted.”
Chuck Schlemmer suffered life-threatening injuries after he was struck while bicycling on River Road near Ligonier on Aug. 16.
The driver of the truck, Ryan Gravit, 45, of LaGrange, was later arrested and charged with Level 3 felony and Level 4 felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury and operating while intoxicated causing serious injury with a prior conviction in the last five years.
According to court documents, Gravit allegedly had a blood-alcohol content of .27%, more than three times the legal limit. Police said he swerved over the centerline in his U-Haul struck and struck Chuck Schlemmer straight on. After the accident, Gravit allegedly drove off, heading to Riverside Villa Apartments in Ligonier.
His damaged U-Haul was spotted by a firefighter responding to the accident scene. The firefighter followed the truck and police were able to take Gravit into custody.
Chuck Schlemmer suffered serious injuries including a traumatic head injury, broken bones and a collapsed lung. He was airlifted to Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne, where the family reported earlier this week that he had lost brain activity.
Chuck Schlemmer remained on life support earlier this week before passing late Wednesday.
In Liz Schlemmer’s post, she indicated that her father will be a tissue donor, although none of his vital organs are able to be donated because of the amount of time he survived after sustaining his injuries. Tissue donation includes skin, bones, ligaments, corneas and even heart valves.
Chuck Schlemmer spent 24 years coaching at West Noble, 20 of those as the head coach for the girls cross-country and boys track and field programs. His teams won seven cross country sectional championships and several conference championships.
He was named KPC Media Group Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year six times, in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Chuck Schlemmer was an avid distance runner himself, too. He finished 539th overall out of 14,582 runners in the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2002. His time was 2 hours, 52 minutes, 25 seconds.
Chuck Schlemmer retired from coaching in 2017 but continued to teach social studies at West Noble High School.
In an update posted to the Team Schlem GoFundMe page that was set up, Zack Schlemmer posted an update about his father’s passing, while again thanking everyone in the community for their ongoing support during the trying week.
The fundraising goal, which was started initially at $1,000, has now been raised to $25,000. As of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, more than $18,000 had been contributed by 251 donors.
The money will be used to pay for medical bills, with the hope of also setting up a memorial scholarship in Chuck Schlemmer’s name. That fundraiser can be located online at gofundme.com/team-schlem.
“As for dad, if there’s an afterlife, I’m sure he’s already out there going for a run,” Zack Schlemmer posted. “We would again like to thank every single one of you for your generous donations and kind words. They all mean the world to us, and continue to show us not only how much dad was loved, but also how much you all have our backs during this difficult time.”
Liz Schlemmer said that, on Aug. 16, her father had visited her grandma, come home and then went out for a bicycle ride in a bright yellow helmet and bright bike clothes. He was familiar with the area where he was riding.
“He left a note at the dining room table saying to order pizza, he’d be home at 6,” Liz Schlemmer wrote.
He, unfortunately, didn’t make it home that night.
According to court documents, Gravit was stopped on C.R. 900N near River Road for a train on the afternoon of Aug. 16. Witnesses told police that they previously saw the U-Haul moving truck he was driving “all over the road to the point they thought it was going to crash,” according to the charging documents.
Once the train cleared, the U-Haul sped over the tracks and drove about a half mile before turning onto River Road. Witnesses turned onto River Road, too, where they spotted a male on the side of the road, who was identified as Chuck Schlemmer. The witnesses called 911 and told dispatchers they believed the man was hit by the truck.
The U-Haul police located later had sustained heavy front-end damage, including a shattered windshield that police said was consistent with a person striking the glass.
A blood draw taken at Parkview Noble Hospital showed Gravit had a blood-alcohol content of .27%, more than three times the limit of .08%. According to a police affidavit, Gravit smelled of alcohol, alcohol containers were in view in the vehicle, his eyes were red and glossy, his balance was unstable and he was acting hostile and uncooperative with officers.
Gravit allegedly told officers “You can’t prove I was driving,” while being arrested.
Gravit has an extensive criminal history, mostly in LaGrange County and mostly containing low-level felonies and misdemeanors, dating back into the early 1990s.
In April this year, he was convicted in LaGrange County on a misdemeanor charge of operating while intoxicated, and also currently has a pending driving while suspending case in Noble Superior Court 2. His past history includes some drug, fraud and other driving offenses.
Earlier this week, Noble County Prosecutor Jim Mowery stated that if Chuck Schlemmer died from his injuries, the details of the criminal charges filed against Gravit would change, but the levels of the charges would not, since they had already been enhanced.
Gravit will still face one Level 3 felony and one Level 4 felony if charges are amended to reflect Chuck Schlemmer’s death. A Level 3 felony is punishable by between three and 16 years in prison, while a Level 4 felony carries penalties of two to 12 years, if convicted.