Hundreds attend service for young Central Texas boy who battled cancer
Luke Garrett Sutherland Hamilton’s father is a Killeen firefighter, and in death the 7-year-old Goldthwaite boy was one, too.
The Goldthwaite Elementary School first grader, who died last Friday after a month-long battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer, was laid to rest Wednesday after an emotional funeral service that drew a crowd of about 500 mourners to the small Central Texas town’s First Baptist Church, so many that some had to watch a live stream of the service in another room.
“Luke was a blessing to our family during a real difficult time in our lives,” the boy’s mother, Melissa Hamilton, told mourners, about 60 of whom were Killeen firefighters.
The department posthumously honored Luke by making him a fire rescue officer, assigning him badge No. 1000, a department-issued ID card, a helmet and a helmet shield bearing his name, Luke Hamilton.
Killeen firefighters maintained a constant vigil over the young boy’s bright yellow casket until the service Wednesday, just as they would have done with any other colleague.
“It was amazing that my second family, all these firefighters were here for us today,” said Nick Hamilton, Luke’s Dad.
“I’m going to miss that little boy, I’m going to miss out on all those things we would have done together as father and son,” Hamilton said through his tears.
After the 90-minute service, firefighters placed the young boy’s casket atop a fire truck, on which it was carried to Goldthwaite Memorial Cemetery, where about 300 mourners were gathered.
When it arrived, a line of firefighters saluted as the truck carrying the casket styled after Bumblebee, a robot superhero from the popular Transformers franchise.
A bell tolled in Luke’s honors nine times as it has at firefighters’ funerals for 200 years.
“I went to his room today and promised I would be strong for him today,” Melissa Hamilton said after the service.
“I’m going to miss that rambunctious little boy running around the house, and I am sure it’s going to be very difficult for us in the future.”
Luke was diagnosed on Oct. 9 with medulloblastoma, a cancerous tumor that starts in the lower back part of the brain and tends to spread to other areas around the brain and spinal cord.
Doctors were able to remove most of the tumor, but other areas could not be reached.
He died a month to the day later after he was removed from the ventilator that was keeping him alive at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth.
Throughout his short battle, Central Texas residents rallied around him and his family.
The Goldthwaite High School cheerleading squad and mascot visited him at the hospital.
Friends, neighbors and complete strangers in Goldthwaite set up donation buckets around town, sold T-shirts, and organized online fundraisers and auctions.
At one Goldthwaite High School football game, fans of both teams passed the hat and raised $3,000 in only one night for Luke.
And on the day he died, when Goldthwaite hosted Valley Mills, both teams honored Luke with a “blue out,” and most fans wore blue, too, the youngster’s favorite color.
Many went to the game wearing T-shirts that read “I am Luke Strong”
The Goldthwaite football players warmed up in "Luke Strong" shirts and coaches wore them throughout the game as players ran through a "Luke Strong" sign as they came onto the field.
Since the mascot for both teams is an eagle, signs were hunt at the stadium that read "No Eagle Fights Alone."