The death of 17-year-old Jack Lyons has left the city in mourning.
The teen was renowned for his bright smile, his devotion to the North Bay Battalion hockey team, his desire to play hockey and downhill ski, and a family and community who adored him.
“We’re hollow with grief, we loved him so much,” Jack’s father, Mark Lyons told The Nugget in an emotional interview Monday morning.
Neither Jack nor his family let autism stop him from achieving his dreams and reaching his goals.
Lyons said he son died Sunday. No cause has been determined at this time. A post-mortem is scheduled.
“I took him to an Ottawa Senators game against the Montreal Canadians on Saturday. We got home and he gave me a hug and kiss and I said goodnight.”
Lyons said when they went into his bedroom the following morning he was unresponsive.
Police and paramedics responded, but despite their efforts they couldn’t save him, Lyons said.
“The paramedics tried, police tried. They tried to get him there (North Bay Regional Health Centre) to save him,” he said as he sobbed.
“Jack had so many heroes that he looked up to, but he was mine. He was kind and never judged anyone. He loved deeply.”
Lyons said his family never let autism get in the way of Jack living his best life, no matter the obstacles.
“For me when there was a mountain we had to climb, we always found a way to go around it. There was always a way. Always”
Lyons said there are countless times professionals said Jack wouldn’t be able to do something, but Jack proved them wrong.
“The word never was not in my vocabulary. We had perseverance and determination to never let his autism stop him from doing what he wanted to, so whether that was skiing or biking, we made it happen.”
As news spread, hundreds of people expressed their condolences and shared their memories of the Chippewa Secondary School student.
“I called him the deputy mayor of North Bay,” said Michelle Muscutt Irvine.
“He knew everyone and everyone knew him. His memory for people was phenomenal. He would wave to people and then say where he knew them from or say the name of their kids or what they were doing the last time he saw them,” she said.
“His smile was infectious and others couldn’t help but stop to chat with the “Deputy Mayor.’”
Muscutt Irvine told The Nugget Jack was an amazing athlete and loved sports.
“Anytime he could get his hands on a ball or something to kick or throw, that was what he was going to do,” she said.
“I don’t know how many balls, Frisbees and pine cones Jack managed to get up on the roof of the school, but he sure knew how to throw and kick higher than most other people. The best part would be after he roofed something he would say ‘what did you do that for?’ And chuckle to himself and give you his sideways grin.”
Jack was also known for giving “the best hugs.”
“He had a way of knowing when you needed one or when you needed a laugh,” Muscutt Irvine said.
“He would make funny fart jokes just to make you smile or change the subject to something joyous. He knew no one could be upset with him if asked them for a hug or made a fart joke.”
Sharon Fung, past president and board member of the North Bay North Stars Special Needs Hockey Team, said she loved Jack’s smile and how every time he scored a goal both teams and all spectators would erupt in cheers and Jack would just smile his beautiful smile.
“Mark was always close by and took so much pride in those goals,” she said.
Kaitlin Pace, an assistant coach with the North Stars, said she met Jack as a volunteer coach for the North Bay North Stars hockey team .
“Getting to coach Jack was an honour. Seeing him every Sunday afternoon for a number of years was at times the highlight of my week, because even in my darkest of days, Jack always provided a little bit of light,” she said.
“I will forever be grateful I had the privilege of being a small part of Jack’s life because the influence and the light he shone upon mine will forever be immeasurable.”
Dave Nadeau, Head Coach of the North Stars and the Shooting Stars, said Jack was a very special gift to our programs, and he will be missed by all of his teammates over the years.
“Personally I will never forget the determination displayed for his first goal on his own, without the physical assistance of his father Mark. Rest in peace Jack.”
The North Bay Battalion hockey organization, which Jack was a super fan, issued a statement upon hearing the news.
“The Battalion family is deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Jack Lyons. Jack was a very special young man who lit up every room. You will never be forgotten.”
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.