San Luis Obispo High School’s boys and girls soccer players stood solemnly on Holt Field beneath an overcast sky Saturday wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with No. 23 to commemorate teammate Alex Maier, 17, who died earlier this week after a vehicle accident.
Hundreds of friends, students and community members packed the stadium — leaving standing room only — to pay tribute to the high school senior and soccer standout.
The crowd stood silently as Maier’s family, including his dad, Gary Maier, mother, Deborah Cherry, and sister, Leah, 14, came onto the field, walking between columns formed by Maier’s teammates.
The family, embracing each other, stood momentarily facing the crowd, sharing the grief with those who mourned from the stands.
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School officials and friends spent the next hour eulogizing a young man described by those closest to him as happy, energetic and at times a prankster, strong, thoughtful and resilient.
“I felt the breeze today and his smile,” said Noel Sanchez of the California Transplant Donor Network.
Maier, who elected to become a tissue and organ donor when he was 16, saved the lives of six people and helped dozens of others heal, Sanchez said.
“I see how his love continues,” Sanchez said. “People are alive today because of him.”
With the stadium scoreboard set to the No. 23 and large photos of a smiling Maier facing the crowd, the high school choir sang songs throughout the memorial service, including “Fix You” by Coldplay and “Let It Be” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Some in the crowd wept quietly.
“It was a joy to be with him on or off the field,” friend Lukas Holocher said. “He had a large heart and beautiful smile. ... He taught us to never take friends and family for granted and to love to the best of our ability.”
Maier’s family thanked the community for its support before a final musical tribute, the song “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, was played.
Once again, their faces enveloped in grief, the family rose to face the hundreds of people who had come to say goodbye to their son, and led by Deborah Cherry, the crowd clapped their hands together with the song’s beat and briefly shared a smile.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter