By Ashley Luthern
The No. 89 football jersey was spotless.
It was supposed to have been worn by 8-year-old Bryce Linebaugh during his first peewee football game of this season.
Instead, it hung in the lobby of Leavittsburg Church of God on Friday afternoon.
The jersey served as a backdrop as more than 50 mourners came to honor and celebrate the life of Bryce, who was killed Monday when a shooter fired an assault rifle at homes in Bryce’s East Side Youngstown neighborhood.
“He was the most fun kid I ever met. He had a good spirit. Whatever happened to him, he always had a smile on his face,” said Ammon Williams, a neighborhood friend.
Mike Peace coached Bryce’s football team, the Everlife Worship Center Kings, and called Bryce a “good kid” and “very mild-mannered.”
“As a coach, I loved him
being around. ... We’ll always miss him. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand it,” Peace said.
Pastor Mark Rasey, who officiated the service with Pastor Rodney Mullins, spoke of Thursday’s vigil on Maplewood Court, Youngstown, and the hundreds who gathered.
He said those people came together “to be a light in our community, and would not let the darkness win.”
He also called upon the power of prayer and Bryce’s love of it, and both he and Bryce’s mother, Jessica Linebaugh, said Bryce would have prayed for forgiveness for the child’s killer.
“A prayer of forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t want justice done,” Pastor Rasey said.
Jessica Linebaugh said her son prayed regularly.
“He would pray every single night and for every single person he knew. ... I ask that you all pray with him one more time,” she said.
A video projected images of Bryce with friends and family as the song “Hug Him Once For Me” by Erica McClure filled the sanctuary.
“I ask you Lord, you answered / a little one you gave / The hardest part I never knew was that little one you’d take.
“But Lord I trust you now, and know that you are good / and Jesus, I was wondering if you would,
“Hug him once for me / Hold him up real close / Let him sit upon your knee / Tell him all the things we teach him about you
“Whisper in his ear one more simple truth / Tell him that you love him and that we love him too.”
Memorial contributions may be made to the Bryce Linebaugh Memorial Fund at any Huntington Bank branch.