Friends, family say goodbye to fallen Gurdon player
August 17, 2011
GURDON On Wednesday afternoon, friends and family gathered to say goodbye to Montel Jaymel Williams, the 15-year-old Gurdon football player who collapsed and died earlier this month after football practice.
A preliminary autopsy report showed that his August 9 death was from an unknown, pre-existing heart condition.
A crowd of more than 1,500 filled the Charles and Anita Cabe Auditorium on the campus of Gurdon High School to pay their final respects to a young man who was described by many during the 90-minute service as a stellar student and an even better human being.
"I think that the number that turned out from the community, from Prescott, to Arkadelphia, that just shows you the type of student he was and more importantly what type of kid he was," Gurdon School District Superintendent Alan Blackwell said. "Just an all-around good kid, good student, good teammate."
The emotional service featured testimonials from various area pastors and three musical tributes to Williams.
Many in the crowd wept while words of hope came from Rev. Johnny Harris and Rev. Charles Young, both of whom challenged all young people in attendance to live their lives more like Williams, who had also been attending the Southwest Arkansas Prep Academy at Henderson State for the past 11 months.
While the mood was a somber one, the message from all involved was to make sure that the memory of Williams, who was described in the memorial program as a young man who loved fishing, football, music and playing cards, live on in positive light.
The memorial service was attended by all members of the Gurdon football team, who were clad in their jerseys, along with players and coaches from Gurdon's nearby rival, Prescott.
"Gurdon and Prescott have a rivalry that goes back years and years and years, but this is special, when they come and support when we have one that has fallen," Blackwell said. "To me this just shows that Gurdon and Prescott have a bond that goes beyond football."
Prescott coach Greg Smith said the team needed to be there not just for Williams, but for the whole community of Gurdon.
"There's no rivalry to it, it's just life," Prescott coach Greg Smith said. "It's just two small towns doing life together, side-by-side. And when they talk about 'it takes a village,' that's all of us.
"We're all bonded by sports right now, and we're all bonded by the spirit of Jesus Christ. That's why we're here, because we want to support this community, the family and the athletic program, because they've lost someone who's dear to their program and it hurts the state, it hurts my kids."
Blackwell added that the team plans to honor Williams with patches and other forms of memorial, along with a ceremony prior to the team's first home game of the season, Sept. 23 against Horatio.
Williams' body will be interred at Rose Hedge Cemetery in Gurdon, where the family held a private burial after the service.