LIBERTY, Mo. -- At Liberty High School, fans of Blue Jay sports are mourning the loss of a friend.
Jack Smith passed away last week.
Smith served as an athletic trainer with the school for 47 years, and watched scores of young people grow into adults.
All the school spirit is there on game days, yet something's missing. Liberty's boys' basketball team is grieving the loss of a dear companion.
Jack Smith was more than an equipment manager. Students and faculty consider him a cherished buddy, and a vital part of the team. The 65-year old diehard met the end of the road on Jan. 16, from what doctors call death by natural causes. Jack had been team equipment manager at LHS for 47 years.
"He'd been here longer than I have -- 27 years in the program longer than I," Liberty Coach Roger Stirtz said. "That's what's fascinating. His longevity. His connections. He knew everyone."
Friends say Jack was a Blue Jay to the core. Sometimes, he managed equipment. Other times, he snapped photos. Sometimes, he just made people laugh when they needed it.
Jeff Billings operates KC Sports.net, and taught jack to use cameras. He says he's lost his best friend.
"He was a kid at heart," Billings said. "He had a very youthful look on things. He was always upbeat and full of energy."
Blue Jay athletics meant everything to jack. Billings tells the story about a boys basketball game from two years ago during which Jack suffered a minor heart attack, but he refused to leave the gym until he was sure the game was over, and that his beloved Liberty High School was a winner.
"Jack and i said it all the time. We had more fun than anyone had the right to have."
And those who are left behind are still having fun, in part, because Jack made them smile.
Funeral services for jack smith will be held tomorrow at pleasant valley baptist church in clay county.