Friends and family members of a South Surrey teenager passionately chronicled his life in front of approximately 300 people Wednesday morning, and shared stories of how his unwavering love lassoed those around him.
Jack Stroud, 15, died after he was struck by a train at Crescent Beach two weeks ago.
Images of Jack jumping from a pier, playing football, goofing around with friends, hanging out at the beach and singing in a school choir played on monitors throughout Peace Portal Alliance Church.
The photographs, played on a loop, all shared a similar trademark – his signature, glowing smile. It could be seen on a large image of Jack that was propped up beside his cherry-coloured casket.
Andy Stroud spoke first, explaining his son’s upbringing, what made him tick and his role in the family.
Andy said “Jacky boy” was a fun-loving, humble, caring person who loved people “and from the day he was born, he had a big smile on his face.”
Born April 13, 2003 in White Rock, Jack grew up in southern California and South Surrey. Following his death, friends in California held a memorial service near one of his favourite hang-outs, a convenience store.
More than 300 people attended that service, Andy said, noting Jack’s friends held a 70-second moment of silence – 70 was Jack’s football number.
Andy mentioned many of Jack’s athletic achievements throughout the years, and explained that Jack was not known for his size, but for his compassion.
He was the youngest-ever member of the Seikido Martial Arts Foundation of Canada – he received a junior black belt at age 12.
“It was frustrating torture for Robyn (Jack’s mom) and me to see Jack get beaten in tournaments. Because of Jack’s nature, he would not even consider using his height or weight advantage, as he knew, he could potentially hurt someone,” Andy said.
When Jack got older, he played co-ed rugby for the Bayside Sharks. Andy said he remembers watching his son tackle a girl. Afterwards, Jack picked her up, placed her gently on the ground, and then took the ball.
“He hated the thought of hurting anyone.”
Although a gentle giant – standing six-foot-one and weighing 263 pounds (and he could do a back-flip) – Jack was passionate about football. In 2016, he and the Newbury Park High School Panthers – based out of Thousand Oaks, Calif. – went undefeated. Jack was selected to play for the league all-star game, and then selected to represent Southern California on the state all-star team.
Described as the policeman of the family, Jack was the protector, and he settled family disagreements when he could.
The teenager’s sense of humour was noted often throughout the hour-long service.
Andy said Jack told his family that he wanted to be a dentist.
“He was probably given a sucker, and thought wow, this is a good job. I can keep the suckers for myself,” his father said.
Another time, his grandmother asked Jack what he wanted do when he’s older.
“You could see Jack’s head spinning. And, he said, ‘I think I’m going to be a male stripper.’ And got on the table and started showing us his moves,” Andy said to the crowd, evoking laughter.
Jack wasn’t into fashion, his father added, and he hated it when his parents spent money on him. Last year, during football season, he split his football boots. Instead of telling his parents, he would tape his boots before practice – it took two weeks for his parents to notice he needed new ones.
Jack worked as a dishwasher at Seahorse Grill in Crescent Beach. Always eager to chit-chat, he said the next job he wanted was a cashier, so he could talk to all of the customers.
But, what truly epitomized Jack, his dad said, was his “famous bear hugs.”
Andy said that three years ago, Jack read an article that said hugging extended people’s lives – that’s when he became a “serious hugger.”
“If Jack was here today, he would want to hug you all,” Andy said, before taking a moment to collect himself.
Andy then clenched his heart – with both hands – and tremored with emotion.
“So my son, rest in peace,” he said through tears and a broken voice. “We love you very much. You will forever be in our hearts.”
Andy’s eulogy was followed by family tributes from Jack’s brothers Luke and Liam, his uncle Grant Schnurr and aunt Alyson Goddard.
Friend tributes were made by Niko Pavivic, Henry Ratcliffe, Tamara Vietch and Jeff Mager.
Before ending the service with a prayer, Pastor Geoff Stewart made a request to Jack’s young friends.
On behalf of the family, Stewart asked that they not remember Jack with a smoke or a drink, but through acts of kindness, love and hugs.