The Menomonee Falls community lost a young man over the weekend who was truly an inspiration for all that met him.
Dylan Smith, 13, passed away Saturday after winning — not losing — his battle with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. His disease weakened his muscular system and hampered his mobility, but it never weakened his love for life and his ability to move people in a positive way.
"On Saturday, Dylan passed away with all of his loved ones by his side. He fought his pain, challenges, and his disease with a smile, a positive spirit, and such bravery,” said his aunt Lisa Desai. “He fought and he won his battle against muscular dystrophy because now he is free! We are the ones who have lost; we have lost him. Although his 13 years with us seems much too short, his life here was one full of happiness, love, and laughter. His beautiful smile and gentle, loving spirit will not be forgotten.”
Dylan loved to play video games with his best friend Mitch, cousin Nicholas, and his uncle Greg. He also loved watching movies and participating in outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing.
His dream was to become an explorer for the fire department just like his father, Kurt, who is a volunteer firefighter for the Menomonee Falls Fire Department. After services on Saturday, the MFFD will transport Dylan's remains back home atop a fire engine.
“His needs were not a disability, but were just ‘our normal.’ He never ever felt sorry for himself or felt that he had limitations,” said his mother, Jennifer Smith. “He lived a fulfilling life and never let his challenges stop him from trying. One of the family mottos was, 'We’ll figure it out.’"
Dylan also left a lasting impression with fellow students and teachers at North Middle School. In January, Dylan had outgrown the mechanical wheelchair he used to get around. Recognizing his needs, the entire school rallied to sell anti-bullying T-shirts to raise money for a new chair that would allow him to do all the things he loved most.
Ryan Anderson’s seventh-grade class were also ordering shirts. On Monday, as word had spread about his death, students at North wore their anti-bullying shirts to honor Dylan.
The high school student council also organized a benefit at the Quilted Bear to assist the family. It was a case-in-point example of a community coming together. Dylan also received his upgraded wheelchair as well.
“To see and feel the love and support surrounding Dylan and their family was truly overwhelming. Everyone he met truly cared about him and about his well being,” Desai said. “He found his way into many, many people’s hearts. Dylan was always smiling and had such a positive attitude even through the difficult times.”
As word spread about the weekend’s sad news, the community echoed Desai’s words.
“I too, have a daughter with a chronic illness and know the journey you walk as parents. I commend this community for standing next to him as their classmate,” said Jennifer Bertram, a friend of the Smith family. “What integrity that shows as a community. Dylan and his family have clearly touched too my lives to count.”
“My son and the rest of the kids at North Middle School will miss him,” said North parent Robert Dernetz.
Visitation for Dylan will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Schmidt and Bartelt Funeral Home. A funeral service will follow at 6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the family would be appreciated.
“Please remember Dylan with a smile on his face as he cruised around town,” his mom said. “He will be in our hearts forever!”
Please share a memory or kind word for Dylan and his family in the comments below.