This video was first shown at Will's memorial service on Jan. 18, 2019. SJ's written piece was originally published in the Jan. 17, 2019 issue of The Review.
Will McKone, a St. John’s student since kindergarten, passed away on Nov. 24 after a long battle with an inoperable brain tumor. Will was a member of The Review since his freshman year, a frequent SAC representative, eighth-grade class president and a three-sport athlete. He was 17. He is survived by his mother Lisa, father Tim and older sister Lindsey (’16).
Will will be remembered for his caring spirit, his effortlessness in making others smile and his love of the Boston Red Sox.
“Will loved living his life,” his father said. “He had an infectious smile, beautiful blue eyes and was truly happy.”
Will is pictured with his eighth-grade advisory. (Courtesy of Helen Lykos)
Will donated his organs through Houston Methodist, the hospital that last treated him. His liver and one kidney went to a 54-year-old man who had been waiting for transplants for 28 days, while Will’s other kidney went to a 14-year-old girl who had been waiting 448 days. Will’s heart and lungs were donated to St. Luke’s hospital for research.
To commemorate Will’s selflessness, Houston Methodist illuminated the top of their buildings in blue.
On Dec. 2, he was buried in Valhalla, NY in a small family service.
A public memorial service took place at St. John’s in the Great Hall on Friday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. The Upper School cancelled school that day, so all students could gather to celebrate his memory. Kindergarten teacher Donna Palmer was one of Will’s former teachers to speak at the service.
"Twelve years ago, Will walked through my door with the rosiest cheeks I'd ever seen, a huge smile, glistening bright eyes and a positive aura that filled the room," Palmer said. "That little five-year-old stole my heart.”
Upper School students, dressed in their "Where There's a Will, There's a Way" shirts, gathered on the Great Lawn for a group photo, which was sent to McKone. (Photo: Anthony Leakey)
Lindsey plays lacrosse at Northwestern. All of her teammates and coaches attended the memorial.
On Nov. 29, the Upper School held a Chapel in Will’s honor. Three of Will’s closest friends, Matthew Laborde, Charlie McGee and Aidan Aguilar (all juniors), shared their memories and lasting impressions of Will. Donald Doucet played two of Will’s favorite songs, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” Doucet and the Upper School Jazz Band also performed more of Will’s favorite music at the memorial.
"Will knew about his tumor for years, but chose to enjoy life and elevate others in the process," Laborde recalled. "That is the legacy of Will: selflessness, courageousness and undivided dedication to the people he cared about."
Will stands with his classmate Lily McCullough at sophomore cotillion. (Courtesy of Lily McCullough)
This season the boys’ varsity basketball team will recognize Will’s impact by leaving a seat open on their bench with the No. 44 jersey draped over it. According to McGee, who is also a team captain, Will’s favorite number was four. In addition, during home games, the team warms up in the bright blue-and-yellow shirts, reading “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way,” which were designed by Will and his sister. Members of the SJS community bought the shirts in November, with all proceeds going to A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure Foundation, which helped Will and his family throughout his treatment.
“Will was first and foremost a very smart basketball player — he knew the game better than the vast majority of people and used that to his advantage,” McGee said. “Freshman year, he scored 25 points in the first half of a game, which is ridiculous, and then scored none in the second half. We all laughed about it after the game, but as he astutely reminded us, he was still the leading scorer.”
In Middle School, Will also played football. He led his youth football teams to two league championships as quarterback and linebacker.
Will was also Assistant Video Editor on The Review. One of Will’s video packages was awarded third place in Multimedia Sports by The National Scholastic Press Association in 2017. The plaque hangs in Review adviser Chuy Benitez’s room.
"It was a privilege to work with him on the school’s newspaper video crew,” Benitez said. “I let him put up the plaque in my room because I believed he started what will hopefully be a lasting legacy of exceptional video journalism at St. John’s."
At the end of fifth grade, Will received the highest award given to Lower School students, the Chidsey Award, which was not a surprise to those who knew him for his friendliness and love of learning.
“His primary purpose in life seemed to be to make other people feel good about themselves, especially those who were not always in the limelight,” his father said. “If [an] underdog did something noteworthy, Will would make a point — under the radar — of letting them know and congratulating them. Will saw the good in everyone; he rarely spoke badly of anyone, and when he heard a negative comment about someone, he would counter with a positive attribute.”
Headmaster Mark Desjardins recently announced the establishment of the William David McKone '20 Scholarship Fund: "Donations to this fund will make a lasting impact, commemorating Will's exemplary life and benefitting generations of St. John's students to come."
"We're so grateful for the 17 years we had with Will, and people should not feel sorry for us," his mother said. "It's tragic, but we would have rather had those 17 years with him than 100 years with anyone else."