STEUBENVILLE - The death of Lee West at age 15 in a house fire on Jan. 31 was a tragedy, but his family and friends want people to remember the positive impact he had on those he knew.
That's why, with the help of many, they organized a pool party on his birthday in July and a community Christmas party Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
"We wanted to make sure the year didn't go out without us doing something," said Bernadine White, Lee's grandmother and one of many who aided Cookie West, Lee's mother, in staging the event.
FAMILY TIME — Several families formed teams for a basketball tournament that was part of a community Christmas party held in memory of Lee West Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. The event was coordinated by friends and family of West, who was killed in a fire at age 15 on Jan. 31.
Though the morning's heavy snowfall led the organizers to postpone the event by an hour, many turned out to view or participate in a basketball tournament pitting teams of families against each other and refreshments that included pizza donated by area businesses and cookies and punch supplied by volunteers.
Cookie said because her son died from inhaling carbon monoxide during the blaze, she invited the City Fire Department to talk to attendees about fire safety and the importance of placing carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.
White said she hopes the event will help to underscore the need for recreational opportunities for the city's youth at a time when the city, citing financial difficulties, has closed the pool at Belleview Park and the future of the center itself is in question.
As a youth growing up in Martins Ferry, she has good memories of swimming and skating at facilities in that community, she said, and believes youth need such activities to occupy them outside school.
White said her grandson would have enjoyed Saturday's event.
"He was a community-type of guy. He wanted people to get along and have fun," she said.
White added, "He was very unassuming, a wonderful child. He was my peacemaker. He didn't meet any strangers and if there were people who were at odds with each other, he did everything he could to bring them together."
She recalled the many classmates who turned out for Lee's funeral.
"That was the kind of influence he had on everybody. They just loved him for who he was and he accepted them for who they were," White said.
"We miss him. We really do miss him a lot. He was just wonderful," she added.