Orange T-shirts filled the tennis courts at Lamar High School on Sunday night with the words Remember John Cookson 1997-2015.
Friends and family gathered on the Viking tennis courts that night to remember the 17-year-old, who died in a kayaking accident last week.
“You could not experience John without experiencing a sweetness,” said his former wood shop teacher, Jim Pettit, while choking back tears. “He was all guy, but he was sweet.”
The Lamar junior was kayaking with two fellow tennis players Wednesday in Arlington’s Village Creek when his kayak flipped in rough water.
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One of his friends held onto him in the water, while the other led first responders to his location, Arlington fire officials said. When they found him, he was unconscious.
Cookson died later that night. The Tarrant County medical examiner ruled his death an accidental drowning.
His girlfriend, also a junior, said Thursday would have been their five-month anniversary.
“He knew he was good looking. He knew he was funny,” Evangelina Castro said. “He knew what he was — he was really amazing.”
In just three days, friends and family raised $14,343 for the popular teen’s funeral and to start a scholarship fund in his honor. The goal was $8,000.
Part of that money will go toward paying the remaining $700 Cookson owed on his cello, his aunt Scarlett LaFroth said. The family will then donate the cello to Lamar, she said.
He would have made it to the starting lineup in his senior year, junior varsity tennis coach Lane Canon said.
“Just look around. It speaks volumes of how much he was loved,” Canon said, his face flushed with grief.
The tennis courts and benches were filled with members of the tennis team, the school’s symphony orchestra, band students — all different groups together to cry, laugh and talk.
The vigil was organized by one of his best friends, senior varsity player Nathan Luong. “I wanted to show everyone what a great guy he was,” Luong said. “I wanted to preserve his name — show thanks to him.”
The Texas Rangers also showed thanks before Thursday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox.
Announcer Chuck Morgan asked everyone to take their hats off “to remember those lost in the devastating floods in Texas and Oklahoma over the past week and to remember Arlington Lamar High School student and Texas Rangers employee John Cookson. Our thoughts and prayers go out to John’s family and friends during this very difficult time.”
On Thursday night, Cookson’s initials were on parking signs in lots A and B at Globe Life Park in Arlington, where he worked as a parking attendant.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792
Remembering John Cookson
A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at 1010 Collins entertainment venue.