Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • School mourns student who 'always had a smile'

  •   For many, Monday was bittersweet at Mark Twain High School.


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  •   For many, Monday was bittersweet at Mark Twain High School.
       Students and faculty were preparing for a football playoff game against South Callaway while mourning the loss of a teenager who touched many lives.
       Seventeen-year-old Anthony W. “T.J.” Smallwood died at 9:40 a.m. Sunday at Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Ill., a week after he suffered serious head injuries in a fall from the back of a pickup truck. He was a junior.
       “He always had a smile on his face,” remembered Jami Cunningham, who described Smallwood as her best friend. “He always came to school happy.”
       “He was very outgoing and very happy and didn’t care what anybody thought about him,” said another student, Kelsie Boss.
       Linda Stinson was one of Smallwood’s teachers, and recalls that T.J. was never shy.
       “He was a very unique individual,” Stinson said. “He was a hard worker. He was like a diamond in the rough. He had such potential.”
       Smallwood was one of the students featured in an Oct. 29 Courier-Post story about Stinson’s culinary class, and was pictured on the front page sampling a butternut squash soup.
      Another teacher, Theresa Casey, choked back tears as she recalled visiting with Smallwood on a recent return trip from the St. Louis Zoo.
       “We talked the whole way back,” Casey said. “We just had a really good conversation. I’m glad I had that memory.”
       Smallwood loved serving in the group Family Career and Community Leaders of America, and was Region 4 president this year.
       Friends and classmates say Smallwood didn’t know a stranger. He was particularly attentive to his siblings, and loved to visit nursing homes to help with arts and crafts projects.
       “He always helped other people,” Boss said. “He was a very good friend. He was always there for you.”
       Stinson said Smallwood often marched to the beat of his own drummer.
       “He was going to be who he was,” she said. “He was going to be true to himself.”
       High School Principal Jake Moss said the full weight of Smallwood’s loss had not sunk in yet for many students.
       “Our kids are dealing with it pretty well,” Moss said. “It’s definitely a tragedy for any kid or family to go through.”
       “He was like a brother,” Cunningham said. “It feels like he’s not gone yet. It feels like he’ll show up at school tomorrow.”
       Cunningham and others will never forget Smallwood’s loud, boisterous laugh.
       “He loved to laugh,” Cunningham said. “He could crack me up.”
       The James O’Donnell Funeral Home of Hannibal is in charge of arrangements. Messages may be left on a guest book at www.jamesodonnellfuneralhome.com.
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