Locals remember Kent student Devon Conwell's smile, friendly disposition

By Jeremy Nobile | Staff Writer Published:

Even if students at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent didn't know Devon Conwell personally, they were probably familiar with the teenager's radiant smile.

"I can't remember Devon ever being down, ever. Every time I'd see him, he'd be happy," said 2012 Roosevelt graduate Lyvonne Ramsey, 19. "He always had a smile on his face, and if he saw someone down, he'd try to help them and put a smile on their face, too."

Hundreds attended Devon's calling hours at the high school yesterday on a cold and blustery spring evening where tears poured as fervently as the rain outside.

Devon, who was a Roosevelt sophomore, collapsed April 17 during an Amateur Athletic Union team practice at the Pinnacle Sports facility in Twinsburg. He was 15.

Mourners offered fond memories of the teenage athlete who had standout roles on the Rough Riders' football and basketball teams.

Ramsey said he took Devon "under his wing" in athletics.

Read: Family, friends gather to honor Devon Conwell

Ramsey's brother, Dee, was also one of Devon's best friends. The trio could often be found after school playing video games and backyard sports or just wrestling and joking around.

Ramsey said he'll always remember fun times with Devon along with his infectiously positive mental attitude. Even if something was wrong, Ramsey said Devon would just flash his signature grin and say everything was OK.

"His smile is all I can think of -- it's the biggest you've ever seen," Ramsey said. "It was bright, and it shined. In a room full of people, he'd smile and you'd see it."

Roosevelt freshman James "A.J." Greer, 15, knew Devon through school and the football team. He said Devon always wanted "everybody to give 110 percent."

In school, Greer said Devon worked hard on his grades and to excel at athletics.

"He just wanted to make his mom proud," he said.

Roosevelt "super senior" Brett Musselman, 19, said he didn't know Devon personally, but was familiar with his brimming smile and positive attitude around school.

"I know he meant a lot to a lot of students here," he said. "He'll never be forgotten by my heart and never forgotten in my mind."

Summer Huston, 14, an eighth-grade student at Stanton Middle School, is best friends with Devon's sister, LaMara Edding.

She said Devon's smile always put her in good spirits.

"You could be in a bad mood, and he'd just walk in that room and cheer you up," she said. "He was a nice boy. Very confident. He never had a bad attitude."

Melanie McNeil, whose grandchildren knew Devon and often spoke highly of him, said Devon's positive reputation preceded him.

"He was a young man who had a dream, you know? He had his future kind of planned out," she said, noting she didn't know him personally, but knew stories of him well. "He wanted to play ball, have a family ... and I was very inspired by all that. When a lot of young people don't know which direction they're going, at 15, he kind of had his future mapped out and was moving toward it. It's just very admirable."

Roosevelt Assistant Principal Dennis Love said Devon was known to mingle with every school clique, carrying that same brimming smile with him through the halls at school.

"He was friends with everybody, and it's clear to see that Devon is going to be missed. People just loved to be around him so much," Love said.

When he learned of Devon's death, Love said he couldn't help but see his smiling face when he closed his eyes.

"Devon kind of epitomized Roosevelt as far as all the social groups he hung around with," he added. "He was always in the middle of everything and loved by so many people."

Kevin Hockett, strength and conditioning coach for various Roosevelt athletics, said he pushed Devon to be a leader and to work as hard as he could because "he had so much potential."

He said Devon was beginning to embrace his role as a leader, and that it was sometimes easy to forget he was just a teenager.

"He appears to be the most grown-up kid in the room, but he was actually just a fun-loving guy," Hockett said.

In the past week since Devon's death, he said there has been a somber yet "focused" energy with the athletes.

"The kids are very hurt and struck by the circumstance," he said. "However, they also understand the importance to continue to press on and continue working hard in his memory, again, to reach their own full potential."

Roosevelt junior, Michael Brown, 17, said Devon's untimely passing has united students in his memory.

"There's been a friendly attitude going around school -- this really brought us all together," he said.

Even though the light of Devon's bright personality was snuffed out too soon, it's clear the light of his smile will live on.

"Even if you didn't know him, you still knew him," Brown said. "You could always see him everywhere in the hallways flashing that smile."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or jnobile@recordpub.com

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