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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 4, 2009

Hilltowners mourn boy who stuck up for them

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — James Wyatt Spencer was a kid who was always happy. He stuck up for his friends, and looked out for the little guy. A die-hard Yankees fan, he loved baseball, and was one hell of a pitcher. His friends and family called him Wyatt.

He died at Albany Medical Center after an accident with an off-road vehicle on Thursday, May 28, 2009. He was 13, and was almost finished with seventh grade at Berne-Knox-Westerlo.

Wyatt was born on Nov. 24, 1995, the son of James and Bonnie (Witt) Spencer. He was an only child.

“He was the greatest 13-year-old you could know,” his father said, “and 500-plus showing up to the memorial sure proved to me that he looked out for a lot of people. He always looked out for the little guy, stopped kids from picking on each other at school. Just a great, honest kid.”

Wyatt was very family oriented, too.

“He’s got his 80-year-old grandparents living right across the street,” his father said. “I come from a family with three brothers, and they’re always around with their kids.”

Wyatt liked helping out with farm work, especially helping his mother care for their alpacas. He was also witty, and very smart, his father said.

“He always had good marks in school — that was the deal, or else he couldn’t play baseball,” Mr. Spencer said. “And he was one hell of a pitcher. He was the one they brought in when they needed the game to end.” He threw a good 60-mile-an-hour fastball, his father said.

Wyatt also played basketball and golf. He loved camping, four-wheeling, and motorcycling. “He was a very experienced rider, too,” his father said. “A real active kid.”

He loved riding his Honda 100 motorcycle and his Yamaha Warrior 350 ATV. “He could make that four-wheeler do anything he wanted,” said his father.

Wyatt also loved music, like his father. Wyatt played clarinet, though he wasn’t quite as skilled in this area as he was with sports, his father joked.

“The practices were so painful for all of us,” he said, finding the strength to laugh. “And he sang in the choir.”

He loved computers, too, especially instant-messaging with his friends.

“He was a leader,” his father said. “Everybody looked up to him for how to act, the baseball team looked to him on how to play. It’s incredible; all the kids that are coming down here with their parents, they just miss him so much.”

The passion ran both ways.

“He was a budding farmer who had a natural way with animals, and took joy in helping people,” Maggie Gordon, a family friend, wrote in a tribute. “His excitement was often contagious, and his natural charm and smile made making friends easy for Wyatt. His easy-going nature helped him connect with people, and travel freely in circles of his contemporaries, his parents’ friends, and the friends of his grandparents. Wyatt will be remembered as someone who loved a lot. He loved people, from strangers-turned-friends, to his best friends. He loved his mother and father and grandparents. He loved living on Bozenkill Road, and his community.”

Twins John and Jared Lussier, who will be 12 this month, also valued Wyatt’s friendship.

“He was always nice,” Jared said.

“He never got in trouble,” added John.

“He smiled a lot,” said Jared. “Like a little grin, not a big smile,” John added.

Both boys said how happy Wyatt was, and how he liked spending time with his parents. “His mom hardly went anywhere without him,” said Jared.

Wyatt’s favorite topics of conversation on the bus rides to and from school were baseball and dirt bikes, the twins said.

“He always came to school wearing a baseball cap,” Jared said.

When John, who is at the elementary school, asked Wyatt about homework at the middle school, he recalled his friend’s answer: “Homework gets harder and harder as you get up.” John added, “He was a good student; he could handle it.”

He concluded of Wyatt, “He was a popular kid, but not stuck up like most of them.” Jared agreed.

Some years ago, Wyatt and his father took a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“We took him out to Cooperstown one time, and we were in one of the baseball card shops, he must have been 9 years old,” Mr. Spencer said. “There was this old man in the back, reading the magazine, and Wyatt looked at this old man and said, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’

“The guy said, ‘Well, I’m here signing autographs.’

“And Wyatt said, ‘Who are you?’

“And he said, ‘Well, my name’s Clete Boyer.’”

Boyer, who played for the Yankees with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Roger Maris, was a legend in Wyatt’s eyes.

“Wyatt couldn’t believe it,” his father said. “He started listing off names and numbers and records to this guy.”

Boyer was so impressed that he pulled out an 8-by-11 action shot of himself and signed it, “To Wyatt, my number-one fan.”

“They talked smack for about 10 minutes,” his father laughed.

“It makes me want to cry, but it also makes me feel so good, and so proud,” he concluded. “I think that, if Wyatt had to make a statement to the world, he would say, ‘Take care of the world, and take care of each other.’ He always used to say that.”


James Wyatt Spencer is survived by his maternal grandparents, Henry and Renate Witt, cousins Tyler and Eric, and several aunts and uncles. His paternal grandparents, Ernest and Betty Spencer of Westmere, died before him.

“Wyatt also leaves behind his two best friends, Kyle Davis and Brian Pitts, and his baseball team,” Maggie Gordon wrote in her tribute.

A memorial service was held at the Knox Reformed Church on Sunday, May 31, at 3 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont to help with the final arrangements.

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