Aspiring veterinarian among those honored by workers’ memorial

CHAMPAIGN, ILL. (WAND) - Workers’ Memorial Day is a national day to honor those who lost their lives on the job. Ceremonies have taken place each year since the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect more than 50 years ago.

“A lot of the jobs people do every single day are dangerous. And not to take for granted that you may not get to go home at the end of the day,” said Matt Kelly, President of the Champaign Co. AFL-CIO. 

Four workers in Champaign were recognized. One of those honored was 29-year-old, Kristian Philpotts.

“He was very vibrant. One fun memory was his laugh. He had a very high-pitched laugh,” said Reggie Otchere, Iota Phi Theta fraternity. 

“One thing I’ll remember about him is his laugh. He was always enthusiastic. He was always a brother on our side,” Kyeron Williams, Iota Phi Theta fraternity.

Philpotts was the victim of a robbery. He was shot and killed in January 2022 while working as a Lyft driver.

He was earning extra money for school and was just two years short of meeting his goal of becoming a veterinarian.

“He loved animals, KP really loved animals. But KP was just a person you wouldn’t expect,” William Tillman, Iota Phi Theta fraternity.

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His mother, Marla Rice provided this statement about the memorial:

“I would like to say that my son was murdered while working and left in the street for dead, and he did not deserve that. He was a smart, caring, and loving person who was trying to accomplish his dreams of becoming a veterinarian. My family and I would like to thank the city of Champaign and the president of the workers’ memorial for honoring my son and adding him to the memorial. Now, his memory will stay alive in this town forever. He is loved, truly missed, and will never be forgotten. Thank you.”

The other four individuals who had their names added to the memorial include:

Kevin Chapman, 30, of Urbana, graduated from Urbana High School, Southern Illinois and Utah State universities. He worked as a wildlife technician and as a fish and wildlife ecologist before he died in a plane crash in Lincoln in March 2020, while working as a biologist with a local environmental firm.

Harry Hicks, 48, of Mahomet, spent more than a decade working as an arborist, planting trees around the country, but was killed in August 2005, when he was crushed while delivering materials to a local job site.

Wendell “Opa” Johnson, 63, of Rantoul, suffered a medical issue while working for a local lumber company in 2011. He’d spent 39 years working in the concrete industry and was a part-time farmer who spent years playing baseball and softball.

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April 29, 2023 at 12:50PM

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