She was a devoted principal. He was a well-liked student.
She lived in Bowie and was a loving wife and mother and a respected member of her church and community. He was the only son of a doting mother, a little brother, a loving uncle to a young niece, an athlete and volunteer firefighter.
They were different in almost every way, but they were mourned similarly last week by students and staff members at two Prince George's County schools.
The death on Valentine's Day of Regina C. Williams, 51, principal of Rosaryville Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, and that on Feb. 16 of Forestville Military Academy football star Timothy Van Buren, 17, left students and school officials reeling and trying to find meaning in their deaths.
"There were two paths he could have traveled, and both would have led to success," said Antwan Jordan, chief of the Boulevard Heights Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, where Van Buren volunteered. "Instead, he's dead. This is so tragic."
More than 2,000 people, including hundreds from the Rosaryville Elementary School community, attended funeral services for Williams. She was killed in a car crash on Route 301 in Bowie about 11 a.m. Feb. 14 as she headed to work. Classes were canceled for students that day because of a snowstorm, but administrators were told to report to work.
On Saturday, about 1,000 people assembled at Mount Calvary Way of the Cross Church in Landover to pay their respects to Van Buren, who shot himself in the head Feb. 16 at his home in Suitland while playing Russian roulette, according to police. Van Buren's mourners included schoolmates from the military academy, as well as teachers, relatives and old friends from Fairmont Heights High School, which he previously attended.
"He was well known and well liked, and you could see that from the number of people who came to his funeral," said Lloyd Brooks, president of the Boulevard Heights fire station.
Van Buren's body was transported atop Engine 171 of the Boulevard Heights station to its final resting place in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. He was buried in his formal dark blue dress uniform.
Police said Monday that they continue to investigate the accident that killed Williams and the shooting that took Van Buren's life.
Maryland State Police said Williams was driving south on Route 301, a few blocks from her Bowie home, when her 2004 Lexus sport-utility vehicle was broadsided at Trade Zone Avenue by a 2004 Honda Accord driven by Pablito Lozano, 67, of Oxon Hill. The force of the collision caused the SUV to flip onto its side, ejecting Williams, who was not wearing a seat belt. She was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Prince George's Hospital Center.
According to authorities, traffic lights were out at the intersection because of storm-related damage, and Lozano failed to yield the right of way.
Van Buren, a senior who was a starting running back on the Forestville Knights football team, was pronounced dead just after 10 p.m. Feb. 16, after suffering a gunshot wound to his brain when he allegedly fired a .357 Magnum at his head while playing Russian roulette.
Police said he was at the home he shared with his family in the 3000 block of Sunset Lane. Police said two friends of Van Buren's were inside the house when he was shot.
Van Buren's mother, Curle Yates, said she doubted that her son shot himself.
"That doesn't sound like him," she said in an interview. "He was happy. He was loved. He would have no reason to do this."
Van Buren had dreamed since he was a small boy of becoming a firefighter, acquaintances said. A week before he died, he worked his first house fire. At his funeral, his fellow firefighters served as pallbearers while volunteers from other stations secured the intersections as Van Buren's gleaming black and silver coffin was transported atop the firetruck to Lincoln Memorial Cemetery on Suitland Road.
"It was a really emotional experience," Brooks said. "In the 70-year history of the station, we've never lost somebody like that."
Forestville head football coach Charles Harley said Van Buren was "wise beyond his years." At the time of his death, he was trying to decide whether to stay in Prince George's and pursue a career as a firefighter or accept a college football scholarship.
As they mourned his death, acquaintances also decried the easy access to guns that leads to so many young deaths.
"We don't want to forget what happened," Harley said. "We can buy the T-shirts and do all that, but we have to get tired of the gun violence. I am going to tell my players, as a true memory, let your legacy be that you want to go the extra mile to fight against gun violence."
Prince George's County schools Superintendent John E. Deasy spoke at Williams's funeral and visited with Forestville students after Van Buren's death. The school system said it will provide guidance services to help staff members and students with the grieving process.
Williams's husband, Glenwood Williams, pastor at Edified Christian Ministries International, said throngs of well-wishers came out to pay tribute to his wife. The audience included her students, colleagues at Rosaryville and many relatives and friends.
"I delivered the eulogy myself," he said. "I just talked about how she was a woman of authority, but also how she was a woman under authority at her house by submitting to her loving husband. I talked about how much she was loved. I talked about how her mission was accomplished here on Earth with her family and even with her employment and the example she had set for everyone who knew her."
He said he also told the congregation about his wife's strength. She had to relearn how to talk and walk almost a decade ago after a near-fatal traffic accident and had been seriously injured again in September. Williams, the mother of two grown daughters, had only started driving herself to school again a few days before she was killed, her husband said.
"She lived in pain, but she still managed to accomplish what she wanted to accomplish," he said.
Glenwood Williams and their daughters have been busy since her death, he said, and that has helped them cope. The family and her friends are working to establish a college scholarship fund for a student pursuing a degree in education who has lost at least one parent, he said.
"We are operating in pain, but we are going on," he said. "We are missing her. We cry and have our moments, but we are going on."
He added that he was touched by the outpouring of support from his wife's friends and the school community. He was especially touched by a gesture from one young student.
"She came up to me at the gravesite and gave me a little envelope. It had $3 in it," he said. "She said she wanted to give us something to show our family love. She was probably only in the third or fourth grade. That was very special."
Staff writer Hamil R. Harris and researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.