BILLINGS — Luke Gonsioroski's memory continues to live on strong.
A bench depicting nine photos of Gonsioroski during his time as a star football player for Baker High School was placed just outside of the football stadium on Wednesday in honor of his memory. The bench is located right where the teams would enter the stadium. The tribute is by the old ticket booth of the Baker stadium on the north end zone side.
Across the top of the bench and the photos are the words "Spartan Football" with "In memory of Luke Gonsioroski" on the front of the seat.
Baker head football coach and athletic director Dave Breitbach told 406mtsports.com over the phone Thursday morning that Gonsioroski's family had the bench made and wanted to have it placed at the school where Gonsioroski thrived as a student, athlete, and person.
"They wanted to put it at the school and, of course, we were happy to have it up there," Breitbach said.
Breitbach said Luke's parents, Charles and Katina, were in talks with Breitbach about some sort of tribute monument to their son since January. Breitbach found out that they planned to make it a bench in March and the family contacted him showing him the photo. The trio got together on Tuesday after Baker's track meet and decided where to put it.
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"It's just been something we've kind of talked about," Breitbach said. "It's a beautiful bench, needless to say. (The bench) brings back good memories but for some of it, it's hard to have him gone still."
Gonsioroski passed away after a second fight with cancer on Aug. 7, 2017. An inspiration across the state, Gonsioroski made national headlines after having an eight-pound tumor removed from his chest in 2016. He was back on the football field leading Baker's football team two months later during his senior year.
Gonsioroski would verbally commit to be a preferred walk-on at Texas Tech that following January.
Breitbach said track season this year has been particularly tough because this was around the time when Gonsioroski began to get sick again.
"It's always emotional, needless to say," Breitbach said about placing the bench. "It was a year ago that we started finding out that things (weren't good). It's track season now and he'd qualified for state in the first meet and then this thing and that thing medically started going wrong and this is about the time he started sliding again."
Since his passing, the Gonsioroski family was honored during the second quarter of Texas Tech's football game against Oklahoma State in September. The school also created an endowed scholarship in his name. Then, in November, Operation HOPE, a Lubbock, Texas, non-profit ministry that assists those in need, created the Luke Gonsioroski Character Award.
"Operation HOPE is honored to announce that we will be creating a scholarship in Luke’s name to keep his legacy alive. Each year at our annual banquet, we will honor a high-school athlete who embodies Luke’s spirit and life," Operation HOPE wrote on its website back in November.
And now, Gonsioroski's legacy lives on through the bench on campus.
"That's a real cool thing," Breitbach said of the scholarships. "He left a nice legacy there. There's others that are doing some great things with those scholarships to keep him and his memories in the present, and he's very deserving of it and he led that kind of life. You just can't say enough good things about him and how he went about his life and what he stood for."
Email Kyle Hansen at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @khansen406
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