Those at St. Francis High School in Hamburg remember Jason Jablonski as an exceptional student-athlete and leader.
The 21-year-old Orchard Park resident died Sunday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, succumbing to a rare form of leukemia.
Jablonski, a senior at the Naval Academy, held the rank of midshipman 1st class. Diagnosed with a rare form of the disease in August, his condition deteriorated significantly last week.
"He was an ideal young man and a memorable student, well liked by all and very invested in who we were here at St. Francis High School," said Father Michael Sajda, president of the high school.
Friends knew him as "JJ."
"He was in the top of his class, and was the award winner for our student scholar athlete of the year award in 2013. His acceptance into the Naval Academy speaks volumes of his academic ability and his commitment to country," Sajda said.
Jablonski earned the Monsignor Martin Defensive Player of the Year in recognition of his soccer skills.
Jablonski expected to attend aviation school after graduation.
Father Justin Ross of St. Francis joined Jablonski's family and fellow midshipmen at the Naval Academy senior's bedside at Walter Reed.
Jablonski's death hit the Naval Academy hard.
"Midshipman Jablonski was well known by fellow midshipmen for his tremendous optimism and ability to have a positive impact on everyone he met, even in the face a of a disease like leukemia," Commandant Marine Col. Steve Liszewski said in a statement. "His attitude and fighting spirit can serve as an inspiration to us all, and his passing is a humble reminder about the value of life."
Jablonski, a member of the 13th Company, played on the men's ice hockey team. The economics major made the Superintendent's List the last three semesters. The midshipman previously served as his company's platoon sergeant and squad leader.
St. Francis guidance director Cindy Krug said Jablonski returned to the school earlier this year during spring break, when he "generously" shared his experiences at the Naval Academy with high school students.
Jason Cretacci -- Jablonski's chemistry teacher and assistant soccer coach at St. Francis -- called Jablonski an exceptional young man. Cretacci chose Jablonski as the first freshman to be captain of the JV soccer team. He went on to be a two-time captain on the varsity team.
"He exemplified character and leadership unlike any other kid I've ever met," Cretacci said. "There are not a lot of teenagers that know the difference between when to be encouraging and when to be commanding, and he knew that better than any young man I've ever dealt with on the classroom or on the field."
Funeral services will be held Wednesday at the Naval Academy.