BILLINGS — Luke Gonsioroski of Baker, who inspired a region with his faith and toughness, died late Monday morning from cancer.
The Baker teenager passed away at home surrounded by family.
The Gonsioroskis have a 5,000-acre ranch nine miles north of Baker. He is survived by his father Charles, mother Katina and younger sisters Hannah and Hope.
“God got a great one,” said Dave Breitbach, the Spartans’ head football coach. “He was very close to his family and close to his Savior. I’m happy he is taking that with him.”
Gonsioroski, a standout student-athlete for Baker, made national headlines in June of 2016 when he had an eight-pound tumor removed from his chest at the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut.
“I knew I was in the Lord’s hands,” he told The Billings Gazette last August. “That I was going to be OK.”
Schools around the state held fundraisers to help the popular Gonsioroski, who was also a 4.0 student.
His sister Hannah put together a stirring video tribute to her brother last summer, set to Sia's "Unstoppable," that has been viewed by thousands. He also inspired the hashtag #LukeStrong on social media.
The Class B all-state quarterback Gonsioroski would return to the football field and lead the Spartans back into the playoffs.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound athlete signed with Texas Tech as a preferred walk-on in January. He was also being recruited by Montana State, Montana and North Dakota.
“He was a good athlete and a good friend,” Breitbach said. “Luke did a lot in his short time here.”
Gonsioroski originally went through rounds of chemotherapy in Billings last spring and had the tumor — the size of two footballs — removed in early June. He was back throwing a football one month later.
But during the track and field season this year, Gonsioroski slowed down again. Originally thought to be mononucleosis, doctors discovered spots on his liver and spleen showing the cancer was back.
He underwent treatments in Dickinson and Bismarck, North Dakota, this summer.
“He did what he could. He was really tough,” said Breitbach, who kept in touch with Gonsiorski through daily texts.
Gonsioroski was eventually under hospice care.
“I’m getting a lot of calls and texts,” said Breitbach, as word of Gonsioroski’s death spread through social media on Monday. “I’m pretty emotional right now.
“He taught us a lot in the time he was here. Maybe instead of chasing things ... maybe we should step back and smell the roses. To count our blessings.”