CLIMAX, Mich. – Candlelight filled the bleachers at Climax-Scotts High School Sunday evening, under the lights of the football field where Billy Fitzsimmons, 22, a 2010 graduate, used to play.
On Friday, while Fitzsimmons was driving home from work, heading north on 42nd Street in Wakeshma Township, his SUV veered off the road and rolled several times, ending his life. Police believe Fitzsimmons was not wearing his seatbelt.
Through the flicker of candlelight Sunday, loved ones shared the pain of losing Fitzsimmons, a young man who many in the Climax community call an all-star on and off the field.
“If you have kids, please hold them tight, brothers and sisters, hold them tight. I no longer have mine,” said Billy's older sister, Paige.
Coworkers called Fitzsimmons a young man who was an example to follow, and whose friends said, “He’d give someone the shirt off his back.”
The family said that just days before Fitzsimmons’ accident, they also lost their grandmother.
“We all love Billy, we’re going to miss him dearly," Fitzsimmons’ grandfather said. "When we come to the house, he’d be the first one to greet me and his grandma.”
Also in the crowd were planned beginnings: a whimpering puppy that, Fitzsimmons’ family said, Billy had just bought for himself and his girlfriend.
But through tears was hope, lifted by laughs, friends’ memories, and rising sky lanterns.
“We could sit around and laugh about the stupidest things, be goofy, be dumb—but part of that has died inside of me, because he’s gone,” said Michael Massey, Fitzsimmons’ best friend.
With this harsh reality came a call to action, a plea from Fitzsimmons’ older sister, Paige, for anyone behind the wheel.
“Please wear your seatbelt," she said. "When you drive, do the speed limit, and hold your family very, very close.”
Loved ones gathering at the high school remembered Fitzsimmons but were also raising money for his funeral.
If you would like to help the Fitzsimmons with burial expenses, see their GoFundMe page.