Some of Jack Stroud’s closest friends spent much of Friday in silence, sitting on driftwood logs surrounding a makeshift memorial that they had built that morning.
They constructed a memorial cross and placed it on a rocky section of Crescent Beach, not far from where Jack, 15, was killed two days earlier when he was struck by a passenger train.
Hanging off the cross was a BC Lions football cap and a rugby jersey, denoting two of Jack’s favourite sports. Sports water bottles, team photos and dozens of flowers laid on the ground beneath the cross.
The silence was occasionally broken when one of Jack’s friends – between wiping away tears – shared one of the many memories they had of their friend with each other, and with a visiting reporter whom they welcomed into their fold.
“The only thing bigger than Jack, was his heart,” said one.
The teens smiled as they passed around their phones, sharing photographs they had saved of Jack.
“He could just walk into a room and brighten up the room with his smile,” another friend said.
They said Jack seemed to always have girls by his side, and “oh yeah, he was a hugger.”
In fact, they all agreed, nobody gave a hug quite like Jack.
They said that Jack – who has roots in the U.K. – spent time in California and had hoped to stay there longer.
“He got deported,” a friend said jokingly.
They said Jack was also asked to be a bouncer at a mutual friend’s birthday party, but as it turns out, “he wasn’t a great bouncer” – too friendly.
Friends dropped by the memorial throughout the day, and were even joined at one point by the father of one of the teens in mourning.
The visiting grownup told the teens they need to support each other through the coming days, weeks, months and years.
They responded that they would, and thanked the father for coming to visit.
As Peace Arch News left the emotional gathering, one of the teens chased after with an impassioned request.
“Please tell the story of how he lived, and not how he died,” Rachel Greig, 15, said, her voice cracking.
Jack was – to Rachel, as he was for so many of his peers – trustworthy, supportive, a listener and nonjudgmental.
“I know for me, he absolutely changed my life for the better. I would not be who I am today without him. He was my support system. He could always just kind of tell when something was wrong. You didn’t have to say anything, he would just give you a hug,” Rachel said.
“No matter what, he was there. He always looked after everyone else.”
Rachel said Jack touched many people in the community, and through the past two days she has seen hundreds of people saying a prayer for Jack’s family, which includes a younger and older brother.
“He would walk into a room and make everyone feel better,” Rachel said.
“Nobody could ever say anything bad about him because there was nothing bad about him.”
Another cherished memory of Jack, Rachel said, was his ability to never pass judgment.
“He didn’t judge people. If he heard a rumour he wouldn’t believe it until he knew from the person,” she said.
“He was a gift.”
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