Lee teenager Jayden Andre, killed in July 2 car crash, remembered as kind and big-hearted sports fan

LEE â€” The family and friends of Jayden Andre will gather Thursday morning to pay their respects to a 15-year-old described by those who knew him as a happy and kind-hearted young man who loved his family and playing and watching basketball and football.

Andre, who completed his sophomore year at Lee Middle and High School last month, was killed in a crash on Interstate 91 in Springfield on July 2. A graveside service is scheduled for this morning at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Lee.

“He always gave the best hugs and brought tremendous joy and light into our lives with his kind heart and beautiful smile,” his obituary reads. “Jayden looked up to his older brother Jacob and had an unwavering bond with his sister Mya.”

His uncle, David Walker, told The Eagle that his nephew was a typical 15-year-old boy in many respects, but had an extraordinary sense of empathy and “always had a smile on his face.” 

“The biggest thing is he had a kid heart,” Walker said. “For a kid that might be not having a good day, Jayden was the type of guy who was willing to talk to that kid. He brought that out of other kids.”

Walker recalls family visits to Maine when Andre could play with cousins and feast on two of his favorite foods: crab legs and Fruity Pebbles breakfast cereal. “My sister [Jayden’s mother, Denise Andre] bought the family-sized box, and he’d go through the whole thing,” Walker said. 

State police have not identified Andre or the other three occupants in the crash, which happened at the Exit 5 offramp on the northbound side of Interstate 91 at 4:30 p.m. July 2. Authorities only confirmed that a 15-year-old occupant was pronounced dead at the scene. The accident remains under investigation by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the office of Hampden District Attorney Anthony G. Gulluni.

Walker said Andre and the other three occupants were on their way home from the Six Flags New England theme park in Agawam.

Lee Middle and High School Principal Gregg Brighenti said the school was open for counseling last Wednesday and Friday for Andre’s classmates as well as their families and faculty.

“Jayden was one of the nicest kids you’d ever encounter,” Brighenti said Wednesday. “He always had a big smile â€” he loved basketball and all sports, really. He had a lot of friends.”

“He’d say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Brighenti,’ … even when you had to talk to him about something, he was the nicest kid all the time.”

Brighenti said some Lee High faculty visited counseling hours as well as students and their families.

“It’s tough. I think having it [happen] in the summer is more difficult because you don’t have everybody here like you would during the school year,” Brighenti said. “You wonder a lot more how everybody’s handling it because they’re not here. That makes it even tougher.

While there are guidelines and protocols for reacting to the death of a student, “you have these things and hope you never have to [use them],” he added.

The community has rallied around the family, including a “food train” and financial donations to defray the cost of funeral arrangements, Walker said. 

“it’s unbelievable, the people who have reached out,” Walker said. “Some people [Denise Andre] doesn’t even know donated meals and money to help offset the funeral costs. … When you lose a 15-year-old child, there’s a lot of mothers out there who feel her pain.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Jayden Emry Andre scholarship fund (Lee Middle and High School) in care of Kelly’s Funeral Home, 3 Main St., Lee, MA 01238.

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