MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of family members and friends of JaQari Toney gathered at Danzler Field - the place where he played football and where he felt most comfortable - to remember the teen who died just weeks before graduating from high school.
Those who knew him best say it didn't matter where he was; JaQari's smile was always there.
"We tried last Thursday as teachers to pinpoint who JaQari's friends were, who we would need to focus on that day," said JaQari's teacher, Kathleen Sumrall. "We just realized that everybody was JaQari's friend." I think it's important for JaQari's family to know how loved he was by his class."
A crowd gathered by the hundreds at the center of Danzler Field. Teachers spoke of his sense of humor, even in his writing. Friends also shared their memories, some speaking with emotion rather than words.
JaQari died after a brief bout with pneumonia. But while those left behind are hurting, they also remember why they loved him.
"He was a funny kid. He always had you laughing. And that's all you remember about him is the good things. The funny things," said Keondre Deflanders.
Keondre and Jalicia Hughes were among JaQari's best friends since childhood.
"I want everyone to stay strong. This shouldn't bring us down, it should only build us get the community together to become stronger because we're living in our last days. So, you never know what will happen. Just tell everybody you love them," said Jalicia.
As music written just for JaQari played, candles were lit.
"JaQari just had a heart of gold. A personality as big as the sky and he was," added Sumrall. "He could light up any room he walked in to."
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Moss Point. JaQari will be laid to rest in Machpelah Cemetery in Pascagoula.