VIDEO: Friends, family share thoughts and memories of Ryan Clark [2 min. 51 sec.]
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Just as in life, Ryan "Stack" Clark's bright smile was one of the first things visitors saw Saturday as they arrived at a memorial in honor of his life at Lakeside High School.
The framed photo was displayed in front of a stage where about 100 members of his college band at Virginia Tech played in his honor. There also was an image projected on his old high school gym wall, with the saying "329 strong," a reference to his band's being one shy of its complete number of 330.
More than 1,000 people attended the service to remember the 22-year-old triple graduate and 4.0 GPA student who was among the first two killed in the April 16 shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.
The shooting occurred inside a dorm where he served as a resident adviser. Thirty-two people were killed, not including the gunman, in two separate incidents.
"Ryan was one of my best friends from high school," Erin Dainer recalled before the crowd at Saturday's service. "We always ate at the Pizza Joint when Ryan would order his favorite - spinach and cheese calzone. We had our own Pizza Joint booth dance."
Dancing and being accepting of others, even strangers, was nothing new to Clark, said those who knew him. His Virginia Tech band director, David McKee, said that had Clark been at Saturday's memorial, he likely would have been dancing and meeting people as they entered.
"First and foremost, Stack would want us to greet everyone," McKee said.
McKee became choked up for a brief moment as he noticed Clark's twin brother, Bryan. There was that brilliant smile again.
"I look out there and see the smile that I love," he said before calling Clark's brother up onto the stage.
McKee recalled how he and Ryan Clark once walked across campus at Virginia Tech together. He said it normally would have been a five-minute stroll, but Clark found time to speak to everyone he saw.
"This walk took an hour," he said to laughter throughout the crowd. "It took an hour to go maybe 1,000 yards. He knew everyone."
There also were connections made to Clark's time at Lakeside High, with the school's chorus singing the song Sing Me to Heaven. Clark, a 2002 graduate of Lakeside, had been a member of the chorus and the band.
"It was a real honor just to be asked to be here," said Brad Jones, a Lakeside senior who performed as a member of the chorus.
Lakeside teacher Marcie Anderson also recalled her former student.
"Ryan taught me how to laugh," she said. "Ryan was one of those (former) students who would always stop back by to visit."
There was an explanation for how he got the nickname "Stack." When Clark arrived at Virginia Tech as a member of its band, bandmate Michael Bowers said he was somewhat shy. He introduced himself to Clark and mentioned that the band already had a member named Ryan and that Clark needed a new name. After kicking around such common names as Steve and Jack, Bowers said, he combined the two.
"Stack, as we know it, was born," he said. "Ten minutes later, he knew more people than I did."
Former Lakeside band director Robbie Jerrell said it was that electric personality that attracted so many people to him as a friend and to his memorial Saturday.
"You being here, that is evidence Ryan touched your life," he said.
On Monday, a crowd of about 1,000 friends, family and former classmates turned out for Clark's funeral at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta before his burial in Bellevue Memorial Gardens in Grovetown. His friend Ayanna Maii Simmons seemed to sum up Clark's life best.
"Ryan has always been the smile, the laughter, the person you always wanted to be around," she said.
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