Brendan Horton was a popular 2012 South Portland High School graduate and a standout on the school’s baseball, football and hockey teams.

In 2009, he was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs near the joints of the arm, neck or leg.

Many people might have thrown in the towel. Instead, he stayed in school, continued to play sports, and inspired everyone around him.

He died Wednesday at age 21.

He was remembered this week as an outstanding athlete and person who made a difference in people’s lives.

“He had an outgoing personality,” said his grandmother, Judy Spencer of Punta Gorda, Florida. “He would talk to anyone and everyone. He loved to joke around. He had nicknames for all his friends.”

Horton was well-liked at South Portland High School and a star athlete.

At the end of football season during his sophomore year, Horton discovered a mass on his elbow. An ultrasound showed it was a tumor. The prognosis was grim and his treatment was aggressive, but he continued to play.

In 2013, Horton gave an interview during the Jimmy Fund Telethon on the New England Sports Network’s Dennis & Callahan show. He spoke with composure and confidence on facing cancer and the challenges his illness presented. He expressed gratitude for the support he received from family, friends and the Jimmy Fund.

“The only thing that kept me going is playing sports,” he said in the interview.

Horton went on to attend Saint Joseph’s College and Southern Maine Community College, playing baseball at both schools. He played mostly left and center field.

He left school to receive treatment for his cancer. His grandmother said he dreamed of playing professional baseball.

“He talked about that since the time he was little,” she said. “He absolutely loved it.”

Horton lived in South Portland with his longtime girlfriend, Jessica Keenan, and her parents, Frank and Lori Keenan.

He and Keenan were together for five years after meeting in high school. She remembered him Thursday as a funny, competitive and spirited guy who saw the good in everyone.

She talked about their five-day trip to New York City in December, made possible by The Sisters Wish, a nonprofit that fulfills wishes of terminally or critically ill young adults. The couple saw a Broadway show, and went to New York Rangers and Brooklyn Nets games. They went to many fine restaurants and spent quality time together.

“It was such a good time,” Keenan said Thursday. “It was really fun. It was definitely a moment to remember. I’ll miss him being here and having someone to go home to and talk to. He was my best friend.”

Horton’s passing has affected many in the South Portland community. A search of his name on Facebook shows dozens of posts about his passing, many sharing stories and photos of him.

“Rest in paradise to the strongest person I have ever met in my life,” a friend, Daniel Grazewski, wrote. “The joy and presence Brendan brought to every room will be unforgettable. He taught us to live life to the fullest no matter what life throws at you. In my eyes he was the heart and soul of South Portland.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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