Patrick Henry High School students and staff are mourning the loss of a former student killed in a boating accident.
Friends remember star linebacker Mendez and his family as a fixture at Patriot games. They say his death is a huge loss to their football community.
Former Booster Club President Richard Owen says thumbing through old yearbooks never gets easier. He has experienced five deaths of former students in the last 10 years.
“This is always the hard part,” Owen said. “You get to see them and you remember what they meant, what they did.”
But this death of a former student hit even closer to home
“Shock. Devastation. His mom and dad both worked with the program, and my heart just sank for them,” Owen said.
A football family, he says Russell's mother ran the concession stand at every home game while his father manned the grill.
“He was there, He was there every single practice, every single day cheering on his teammates and always a competitor on and off the field,” Owen said.
As a Patriot, Mendez broke his leg in freshman year, keeping him off the field. But Owens says it never kept him away from the stands.
“When you have a kid that is special, that through adversity, through everything in life, he's always got a smile on his face no matter what he's facing,” Owen said. “It's a huge loss."
The Football Booster Club says there were will be a memorial service Tuesday at Lake Murray from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.