ELIZABETHTOWN -- Though 16-year-old Nathaniel "Nathan" Hammond may have barely weighed 100 pounds, the word "strength" appears repeatedly on two 20-foot signs that honor his memory at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School.

Superintendent Gail Else spoke about the teenager who died at Boston Children's Hospital Wednesday after a battle with cystic fibrosis.

"He led by example. He showed us the way as he persevered," Else said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. We are blessed to have the memories and high standards he has set."

The school community was aware that Nathan's condition worsened while he was in Boston awaiting a lung transplant.

When news of Nathan's death spread on Wednesday afternoon, some of his closest friends were called to the guidance office.

The students hugged each other and cried.

MaryBeth LaRose expressed the thoughts of many when she said, "He always had a smile on his face no matter what went on."

Students said that Nathan touched many lives.

"It's really shocking how it could happen to such a nice person," said classmate Meggan Sheehan.

Kayleigh Ratliff reiterated how outgoing Nathan was, and how infectious his laughter was when he would visit her house.

Grief counseling services have been made available to students and a letter was sent home to parents.

Two large hallway signs were covered with messages to Nathan last week.

The outpourings of love for the teenager brought many to tears as students stopped by the murals to add comments and read the messages.

Steven Plank, a starting pitcher on the ELCS baseball team, summed up the feelings of the school's athletes by writing, "Hey Nathan Buddy, I already miss you man, but I know everything's OK now ... You used to tell me how you looked up to me, but the truth is I looked up to you ... You are one of the strongest kids I have ever met and I will never forget you."

Senior Marlene LaRose wrote, "There are no goodbyes because one day I will see you again. I hope you are playing basketball and running around, and doing everything that you were never able to do ..."

Anthony Brown, like others, wrote as though Nathan is still with them. "Hey Nate, We are here for you. Anything you need, just ask. Have fun where you are, just like you did here."

When Else noticed the tears streaming from the eyes of her students as they passed each other in the hallways, she instituted a "Kleenex station."

To honor Nathan, students and staff wore blue the first day, which is the color of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The following day orange -- Nathan's favorite color -- brilliantly set the hallways and classrooms ablaze.

Nathan would often get very sick then make a quick recovery.

Those who know him became used to this pattern and found it hard to believe Nathan wasn't coming back this time.

Nathan showed compassion for others, volunteering countless hours at the Elizabethtown Community Hospital and Horace Nye Nursing Home.

Whether he missed school for a day or a month, teachers said his assignments were always completed upon his return to school, and he was always on the school's honor roll.

A month ago, just like his peers, Nathan obtained his driver's permit.

Cystic fibrosis is a heredity disease that can affect the entire body.

Symptoms include insufficient enzyme production in the pancreas, shortness of breath, thick mucus production, stunted growth and frequent lung infections.

Earlier in the school year, a quilt was made by students with the center depicting the ELCS lion mascot.

A fund in memory of Nathan is currently being set up.

Blue wrist bands will be sold for a donation of $5.

Calling hours will be held at the Heustis Funeral Home in Willsboro today from 5 to 8 p.m.

The funeral is scheduled at the United Church of Christ ("The Stone Church") in Elizabethtown 11 a.m. Monday.

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