The local school system and community are mourning the loss of a Dawsonville boy who friends say had a smile that lit up the town and all who met him.
Eleven-year-old William Shawn Lee died when his home in western Dawson County erupted in fire overnight Dec. 6.
"He was the life of our school. It was absolutely impossible to have a bad day anytime that you were around Will," said Chess Hamby, a teacher at Riverview Elementary where Will was in the fourth grade and took classes for special needs children.
"He lived life to the fullest and never let any challenge hold him back. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to spend as much time as I did with Will."
The son of Joanna Lee, Will was a lifelong Dawson County resident who enjoyed westerns, football, basketball, deer hunting and ketchup, according to his obituary.
"It didn't take Will and I long at all to bond. We had the same passion for sports, especially football," said Hamby. "He would always ask me about the ‘ball game' on Friday nights."
Dawson County Parks and Recreation recently presented Will, who had Down Syndrome, with a maroon and gold jersey so he could wear it to school on Fridays Like the "big guys."
"This school and community will never be the same," Hamby said. "He made a huge impression in a short amount of time on Earth. I hope we all try to live life in a way that Will would. He loved and cared for others in a way that few people do."
Grief counselors were on hand at the school Thursday morning to help students cope with the trauma of losing a classmate.
"In situations of crisis and tragedy, it is extremely important to make sure that students and staff are provided with additional support and counseling," said Janice Darnell, director of student services with the Dawson County School System. "During difficult times, the school counselors throughout the district join together to provide counseling and grief support as may be needed for both students and staff at the affected building.
"Students, like adults, all process the stages of grief differently. The school district will continue to monitor the counseling and support needs of students and staff during this difficult time."
Funeral services were held Sunday at Bearden Funeral home. Interment followed in the Mill Creek Baptist Church Cemetery.
Dawson County Coroner Ted Bearden said William died at the scene of the Davis Road blaze in western Dawson County.
"He was removed from the fire. The exact cause of death is still under investigation. We won't know anymore until after the autopsy is performed," Bearden said.
Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford said the 1,200 square feet, double-wide mobile home was about 50 percent involved when first responders arrived soon after the 10:15 p.m. call to 9-1-1.
"Callers advised a subject was possibly still in the residence," he said. "A search of the residence located an 11-year-old male patient, whom after extrication and evaluation was determined to be deceased."
Three others, including a second child, were at the home at the time of the fire.
"They were able to escape," Swafford said.
A woman in at the home was taken by ambulance to an area hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
Authorities are unclear on what caused the deadly blaze.
"After investigation, the cause has been ruled undetermined, not suspicious," Swafford said.
The home is considered a total loss.