In Memory of Kyle Thibodeau

Kyle+Thibodeau+%28May+16+2002+-+November+7%2C+2019%29%2C+a+senior+athlete+at+West+Springfield+High+School+leaves+behind+a+legacy+of+kindness+and+hard+work.

Photo Courtesy of Sue Thibodeau

Kyle Thibodeau (May 16 2002 - November 7, 2019), a senior athlete at West Springfield High School leaves behind a legacy of kindness and hard work.

Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

     In the winter of his sophomore year, Kyle Thibodeau went on a ski trip and got a concussion after going straight into a tree. That night he went to the hospital, and early the next morning he showed up at the state wrestling championship, which was two hours away. Coach Kendziera recalled, “When I saw him, I was like ‘what are you doing here?’ and Kyle was like ‘I came to support the team.’” Kyle was on the JV team at the time, and wouldn’t have had to compete; yet, he wanted to be there for his team. Now, two years later, the wrestling team will be going to states in warmups that have Kyle’s nickname and weight class on the sleeves and Kyle in their hearts.

Photo Courtesy of Sue Thibodeau
Kyle with his younger brother Jacob Thibodeau, who is now a freshman at the high school.

     Kyle Thibodeau passed away on November 7, 2019, in a tragic car accident at the young age of seventeen. The community was and still is devastated, but everyone has come together to support one another in the months since his death. “Kyle would tell us to stop being sad and that he’s still going to be there with us all the time. He’d tell us to make him proud,” Brianna Salamon, Kyle’s cousin and a West Side alumna of 2019 said.

     Kyle’s mother, Sue Thibodeau added, “The community has been an enormous help. All the special recognitions at sporting or school events by students and coaches has been very heart-warming. The support from the school and town administration, teachers, and guidance have been amazing. Friends, family and the community at large have been overwhelmingly supportive. Our family really can’t thank people enough for all the kindness, generosity and support they’ve given to all of us!” 

“He loved to do something to make other people laugh. He’d just go for it, he’d be the influencer, he’d be the leader.” ”

— Jake Thibodeau

      Kyle grew up in a very family-orientated household in West Springfield.  “Kyle was my best friend. We were as close and open as I would have ever imagined a father and son could be,” Kyle’s father said. Kyle had a strong relationship with his parents Todd Thibodeau and Sue (Salamon) Thibodeau. “The respect he had for his parents was so unreal. His dad would give him the best advice and he would follow it, and his mom would always be there for him and he was so thankful for that,” said Brianna Salamon.

     He also watched out for his younger brother, Jacob (Jake) Thibodeau, who’s a freshman now, throughout his life. “We loved wrestling and fighting each other, he’d always try to toughen me up by being rough with me. Just having him be so hard on me to just become a great person really affected my life. He’d do so much for other people, he didn’t really care about himself,” Jake Thibodeau explained. When Jake entered high school, and they played soccer together this fall, their bond grew even stronger.

Photo Courtesy of Brianna Salamon
(From left to right) Nathan Salamon, Kyle Thibodeau, Brianna Salamon, Bella Salamon, Beau Davis, Kelly Davis, Tessa Davis, and Jacob Thibodeau

      The Thibodeaus, along with the Salamons (Kyle’s mother’s side) are very tight-knit.  The Salamons have a house in Cape Cod that the whole family goes to every summer. “The Salamons became pretty much my own siblings. We all love each other and would do anything for each other,” stated Jake Thibodeau, talking about his cousins. And Kyle really would do anything to help his family. He often would help out his grandparents, along with all of his cousins. “Kyle was always very protective of Nate, Jake, Bella and I,” said Brianna Salamon, in reference to two of her siblings, Nate and Bella.  

      His uncle, Mark Salamon, owns Salamon Flooring. Growing up, Kyle would race around the business’s warehouse in roller skates with his cousins and brother. Roller skating around the warehouse, however, turned into working in the warehouse when he got into high school. “Kyle was an amazing worker, he picked up things very quickly,” Mark Salamon said. Kyle would install floors with three to four other workers, and everyone he worked with loved him. “Kyle had such an amazing personality and got along with everyone on the job site. They would call him ‘Bang Bang’ out of fun,” Salamon continued. Kyle often worked on jobs with his cousin Beau Davis. Brianna Salamon recalled, “He looked up to my older brother Beau a lot. When he was younger, he wrote an essay about how he looked up to his work ethic.” Kyle also worked at his father’s business called Elements Hot Tub and Spa in Amherst. Nevertheless, Kyle was always very hard working. When he was young, he started a landscaping business with his friends senior Ryan Cumminghum and sophomore Chris Kulig. “It was a sight to see all of them on riding mowers in a row following each other around the yard,” said Mark Salamon.

Photo Courtesy of David Hosmer
Kyle Thibodeau played soccer throughout his four years of high school and grew up playing the sport.

      Kyle was dedicated to his work, but also his sports. He grew up playing soccer, baseball, and lacrosse. He also participated in youth wrestling and he skied a lot. “He was very athletic and I swear he never got tired. He was the Energizer Bunny – it’s like he ran off of batteries that never die,” Brianna Salamon said, laughing. In his free time, Kyle would work out with his friends. He also participated in the Rugged Maniac race every year of high school. “He was tough as nails. He emulated everything you want an athlete to be,” Coach Kendziera, the head wrestling coach stated.

Photo Courtesy of David Hosmer
Kyle Thibodeau grew up in the youth wrestling program and joined the high school team in his sophomore year. It was his favorite sport and he dedicated much of his time to the team.

      Kyle joined the high school wrestling team in his sophomore year after growing up in the town’s youth wrestling program. He soon fell in love with the sport. Coach Kendziera continued, “He never complained. Never argued about what we had to do and he always did what he needed to do and got the job done.” Kyle also always motivated his teammates around him. Kaleb Hogan, a senior wrestler said, “He was my practice partner for a portion of last year and he definitely pushed me to be a lot better.” And Kyle is now an even bigger motivation for the wrestlers. His younger brother Jake joined the team this year. “He’s helped me in difficult times during a match, I just think of him and I just give it my all… He would’ve yelled at me and beat me up if I didn’t try my best,” Jake Thibodeau remarked, laughing.

     Kyle Thibodeau was hardworking, loving, dedicated, but also fearless. “Kyle was the kid that wasn’t afraid to do anything. Anything you asked him to do, he would do for you no matter how crazy or stupid it was,” said Devin Svec, a teammate and close friend of Kyle’s. Jake Thibodeau also elaborated, “He loved to do something to make other people laugh. He’d just go for it, he’d be the influencer, he’d be the leader.” 

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Cunningham
Kyle Thibodeau (left) with his best friend Ryan Cunningham on a mountain after hiking.

     Devin Svec continued, “That kid really did say YOLO about everything. You only live once, and I’m sure that kid has no regrets.” Although his life was cut too short, Kyle really did live those seventeen years to the fullest. “There was never a dull moment with him. It was always something crazy. No matter what he did. It was always ‘do it to the max and do it better than anyone around you,’” Ryan Cunningham, Kyle’s best friend recalled. Kyle enjoyed going on adventures, whether it was skiing, fishing, hiking until sundown, or cliff jumping. And wherever those adventures took place, his best friends were always by his side.

     “With Ky, things were always different,” Cunningham continued. Kyle’s friendship with seniors Chris McMahon and Ryan Cunningham was in the works since they all went to Fausey Elementary school together. “I pretty much grew up with him,” said Chris McMahon. Their friendship really took hold when they all joined the ski club in middle school. One day, on the lift, McMahon invited them to his house in Vermont to ski. “And from there, it became an every weekend thing, every winter, all the time. In the summer we’d go up to Vermont and go cliff jumping and diving,” Cunningham recalled. When they entered high school, Chris’s older brother, Ryan McMahon grew close to them. “You’d almost never catch any of the four of us alone without one another,” Cunningham said.

Photo Courtesy of Chris McMahon
Kyle with his best friends Ryan Cunningham (left) and Chris McMahon (right)

     Carefree, fearless, and daring are all words that could describe Thibodeau. “He got his teeth knocked out and he just walked around smiling without his two front teeth,” Chris McMahon said. Although he didn’t care about what anyone thought of him, Kyle cared so much about the people around him. He’d go out of his way to make sure everyone was comfortable and happy. He was always there to show support to his teammates, family, and friends. “Hearing stories of how people knew Kyle and what impact he had on them or what type of kid he was is very comforting to us. You always wonder if you raised your kids right and hearing nice stories about him definitely helps ease some of the pain,” Sue Thibodeau, his mother explained. 

     The Thibodeau family created a scholarship in his name to carry on his legacy in the student body. The yearly scholarship is two awards of $2500 that will go to two seniors from West Springfield High School that have committed to a college. The students also must show the characteristics of athleticism, advanced academics, hardwork, and kindness. “We feel these categories embody the characteristics of Kyle and will be considered in totality,” wrote Todd Thibodeau on the Kyle Thibodeau Memorial Scholarship website. The lacrosse team has been selling stickers to fund for the scholarship. The family is also selling t-shirts and wristbands that say “Smiles for Kyle” at sporting events and at the school store. “I think everyone’s been so helpful and done such a good job of just supporting us and our family and I just want to thank everyone for that,” Jake Thibodeau remarked. Although Kyle is not still physically here anymore, his memory, legacy of hard work, kindness, love, and fearlessness will carry on with the student body and community forevermore.