Wherever Thomas Jakelich went, he made friends.
Tons of friends in Bronxville, where the 16-year-old attended school until this academic year, friends at sports teams, friends he made on vacation and even friends he made recently while visiting his stepsister at college in Boston.
Many of those friends will be at his funeral Monday, a week after he died in a freak accident on a soccer field in New York City.
“The Thomas community knows no boundaries,” said Richard Newman, his stepfather. “We’ve heard from people all over the country; he had friends in so many places.”
The teenager grew up in Bronxville. He moved with his mother, Jeanine Sieja, to Yonkers last year, but his family was able to pay tuition to keep him in the Bronxville schools, where he also played soccer and where he was a popular and well-like student.
His father, Thomas Jakelich, lives in White Plains.
“Thomas was an extraordinarily special kid,” Newman said. “He was incredibly empathetic. He made people feel good without ever making anyone feel bad.”
A neighbor in Yonkers is an administrator at the Loyola School in Manhattan and Jakelich and his mother became interested in the school and its Jesuit philosophy.
He began classes as a junior there in September, quickly becoming a star on the soccer team.
He was playing in a match with his school Monday afternoon against the United Nations International School on Randall’s Island when he collided with another player while trying to make a goal.
At first the mishap didn’t seem serious, Newman said. But the coaches noticed that the teen was pale and in pain and called an ambulance to take him to a hospital. He died hours later of internal injuries, his stepfather said.
“It was as freaky as freaky gets,” he said.
Death or serious injuries is exceedingly rare in high school soccer, according to a report issued by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Researchers found that, between 1982-2010, there was one indirect fatality associated with high school soccer: A male student suffered a stroke during a practice session and died in 2009.
Students who knew Jakelich are also talking about organizing a soccer tournament in his memory.
School President Tony Oroszlany said in a statement that the school community felt “profound sadness at the loss of a beloved member of the Loyola School family.”
The Bronxville schools have reached out to Jakelich’s family and plan to offer transportation for students who want to attend his funeral at 10 a.m., Monday at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, 980 Park Ave., Manhattan, adjacent to the Loyola School.
The Flower Funeral Home in Yonkers is handling arrangements.