A young man who put his heart into helping kids with cancer lost his own battle against bone cancer Friday. 18-year old Jake Franzel of Crestwood faced many health challenges but he lived life with energy and determination often inspiring his classmates at Lindbergh High School.
Those students had planned a rally outside Jake's home for Friday night to cheer him on. Instead it became a candlelight vigil and show of support for his parents and sister.
Several friends shared their memories of Jake after school on Friday. "I'll just always remember him as the fun kid who always wanted to be with his friends and play sports," said Stephanie Brodwater who played in the marching band with Jake. Ben Smith recalled hanging out with his friend on Saturday nights. "You don't really know what's gone until it's gone," he said.
Chris Kew and Jake began playing flag football in second grade. He recalled how Jake managed to start as a linebacker during their freshman year. "He was a little guy but he packed a lot of punch; he had a great big heart and nothing could really take that out of him not even during cancer," said Chris.
After the bone cancer diagnosis, Jake had to give up football and the marching band. But friends said he faced the illness with humor rather than despair. He also was eager to reach out to other kids with cancer, organizing a flag football game where they could play. High school students, the band and cheerleaders came to watch and cheer. He also promoted a blood drive and other charity events to raise funds for cancer patients and research.
Chris said their friendship inspired him to help kids and to find ways to raise money for research. Ben pointed to the fund raising the football and lacrosse teams sponsored to support Jake. "He left a good mark on the school."
Jake had dreamed of being an aeronautical engineer and designing airplanes. He wanted to attend Missouri Science and Technology University in Rolla. Last week he was accepted there.
"I know that he's a great kid and we're gonna miss him a lot and I just really wish he was here with us," said Chris.
Visitation for Jake Franzel will be Sunday from 2pm to 9pm at the Kutis Funeral Home, 10151 Gravois Rd. in Affton. A funeral mass will be celebrated Monday, January 30 at 10am St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church at 1420 Sappington Rd. in Crestwood.