LAPORTE | More than 3,000 people Sunday attended a memorial service for Jake West, the LaPorte High School football player who collapsed on the practice field and died last week.
The bleachers at Kiwanis Field, home of the Slicers, were at near capacity for the late afternoon service for the popular high school junior who died Sept. 25 from a genetic heart condition.
West, 17, was remembered for being kind-hearted, intelligent and looking at life like the glass was half-full.
"What I have learned from all of this is that life is so very fragile. I can only ask that you all live lives that would make Jake proud," said his older sister, Courtney West.
"A part of me is gone that I will never get back," she said.
His teammates sat in the bleachers while jersey-clad football players from several other schools, including New Prairie, Valparaiso and Merrillville, stood on sides of the speakers' podium before the crowd.
Also in the background was a picture of Jake along with several bouquets of flowers.
"He always put others before him. I spent every minute of my life with Jake. I don't know what I am going to do without him," said Noah Boardman, a linebacker with Jake on the varsity Slicers squad.
Head football coach Bob Schellinger said the week was extremely tough emotionally for the players and coaching staff.
"As the head coach you got to be the one that's strong and be the leader for them and that's what I tried to do. Every now and then I'd sneak off and have a moment to myself," Schellinger said.
"You teach kids and teach them to be strong and hang together and draw strength from each other, and that's what we did."
West was also a member of the high school lacrosse team.
Pastor Dennis Meyer, of Bethany Lutheran Church where West's family attends, told a story about how Jake failed to make the cut on the varsity lacrosse squad that was going to the state tournament.
He said Jake chose to contribute to the team during practice by getting his teammates equipment and water.
"I think it's really telling of his character," Meyer said.
The memorial service ended with the playing of "Amazing Grace" and the community gathering outside the football stadium.
"He was not perfect ... none of us are ... but his field of play went far beyond the stadium," Meyer said.