GIRARD - Mark Moss had not seen former classmate Amos "AJ" Gramelt since the two graduated from Girard High School together more than 10 years ago.
Suddenly, last month, Moss was seeing and hearing his old friend's name often, but the circumstances were stunning.
Gramelt, 29, of Beechwood Drive, was the victim of a violent assault early on the morning of Sept. 17 outside the Wonder Bar along Liberty Street.
"I was really surprised that it happened to him because I didn't think there was any way he did anything to cause it," Moss said of Gramelt. "The kid I knew in school would have never hurt a fly in a million years."
Gramelt's injuries were brutally extensive. He suffered a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain and facial fractures, forcing him to spend a week in St. Elizabeth Health Center's intensive care unit.
As the details of the beating began to emerge, Moss' disbelief turned to sadness, followed by an intense desire to help in any way possible.
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
AJ Gramelt was the victim of a violent beating in September which left him with a fractured skull, bleeding in his brain and facial fractures.
"(Gramelt) was just one of the nicest, most polite kids I knew in school," Moss said. "He'd probably be willing to give the shirt off his back to help anybody who needed it."
In response to what he deemed as a senseless act of violence, Moss went to work organizing donations for Gramelt.
First, he contacted the Gramelt's father to make sure the family was on board with the idea.
"To me, it seems like it would only be positive, but maybe there is a negative side to this that I'm just not seeing," Moss said. "I called and talked to him and he said he didn't see any issue with it at all."
The random act of kindness left Gramelt's father, John, emotional.
"When he called me and told me what he was planning, I was speechless," John Gramelt said of Moss' idea to raise money for his son while he recovered. "He was really just an acquaintance of my son in school. They would pass in the hall and things like that.
"To be honest, it brought tears to my eyes,'' he said. ''That a young man would do something like that on his own is amazing to me.''
Soon thereafter, the "help a nice guy in need" fundraising page was up and running.
"When you think about it, to follow through on something like this says a lot about a person," John Gramelt said of the website. "It's one thing to talk about doing something in a situation like this. To actually do it is another thing."
Moss' site has raised $1,075 since it was activated on Sept. 27. The reaction has far exceeded what Moss had originally anticipated.
"I never even thought it would get that high," Moss said. "I figured if I could get couple hundred dollars, that would be good.
''I want to stress the issue, every dollar is appreciated. If you have $1 to give, that's as appreciated as $100."
The money will help not just offset medical costs resulting from the assault, Moss said, but loss of wages due to time off work.
Amos Gramelt works in computers at the American Eagle Corp. office in Cranberry, Pa., where he commutes more than an hour each day. Doctors are not allowing him to drive until his injuries improve.
"Whether he has insurance or not, he obviously still has mortgage or rent, a cell phone, car insurance, utilities and all that stuff," Moss said. "If he's not working, that stuff is going to start building up really fast."
Gramelt, who is now recovering at home, is expected to miss at least another couple weeks of work, pending a computed tomography (CT) scan, according to his father.
"He gets a little better every day," John Gramelt said. "He still is having the headaches. Most of the damage is to the side of his head. It took a toll not just physically, but mentally."
As for Moss, the victim was not the only name involved in the case which he immediately recognized.
On Sept. 23, Girard police arrested a 29-year-old Robert A. Prodnick Jr. of 102 W. Liberty St. on a charge of second degree felonious assault in connection with the beating. Prodnick was also a member of Girard's class of 2002, according to Moss.
"The kid that did it, to me, was a little cocky and arrogant when it came to sports and stuff like that," Moss remembered. "But never did I think he'd be the kind that would do this. To me, this seems like just a huge case of bullying, really."
The case against Prodnick was bound over to Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, where it is pending. He was released on a $25,000 bond with house arrest.
It is still unclear what led up to the attack.
"I've heard people saying, 'Well, he only hit him once,'" Moss said. "Originally they thought that he probably hit him a lot because of the condition he was in. Now, I've heard he may have only hit him once and he hit his head off the wall, fell forward and hit his head off the concrete.
"Still, even if he only hit him once, that's one time too many. Sometimes that's all it might take. One time might be too much," he said.
Meanwhile, the Gramelt family intends to push the courts for the stiffest penalty possible.
"I plan to be there any time he is in court," John Gramelt said. "We're going to see this through to the end. It was a senseless act and he needs to be punished for it."