Joshua Rowe, a popular senior and a standout athlete at Westbrook High School, took his own life Tuesday, his family said. He was 17.

An estimated 500 people are expected to gather Sunday at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center to mourn and honor Rowe.

He was remembered on Friday as a happy and outgoing boy who had a passion for sports and loved being with family and friends.

“He was loved by all,” said his father, David Rowe Jr. of Westbrook. “His smile just lit up the room. ‘Smiling Josh’ was his nickname growing up. He was always smiling no matter what was going on.”

From a young age, Rowe thrived in playing team sports. He played baseball from Little League through his junior year at Westbrook High School. He also excelled at football and track, though he was most passionate about baseball.

“He was a center fielder,” his father said. “He was very fast. His teammates called him ‘Rowe Runner.’ ”

He was no different off the field. He loved skiing and riding snowmobiles – and going fast.

“I taught them to ski at 5 and 6 years old,” his father said, referring to both of his sons, Josh and Devin Rowe. “He was reckless. He would go down any trail. I tried to teach him to turn and having good form, but he wanted to go as fast as he could. He was a daredevil.”

The family skied at Sunday River and also spent weekends skiing at Saddleback. He said his sons would ski right until the last chairlift went up the mountain.

“Josh would beg the attendant to let him go up one more time, which they did let him do. It was that smile and charm,” his father said, laughing.

Although Rowe loved playing baseball, he quit the team his junior year because he wasn’t getting enough playing time. Instead, he focused on school and work.

Rowe worked as a server assistant at Texas Roadhouse in Scarborough for the past six months. Heath Arbour, a managing partner at the restaurant, said Friday that Rowe was an amazing kid who had a positive attitude and strong work ethic.

“He hustled when he worked and he didn’t complain,” Arbour said. “He was smart, funny and a good-looking kid. We spent a lot of time talking about sports and the future and what he wanted to do with his life. He had a bright future.”

David Rowe and his wife, Karen, struggled Friday to understand how their son could have taken his own life when he had so much going for him.

David Rowe said Joshua recently went through a rough patch. He was disciplined at school for fighting and got in trouble with the police, he said.

“If he felt like he let us down, he was hard on himself,” his father said. “He liked to do everything to the T. When he got into a couple of mishaps, he took it hard. I think keeping that inside, especially at his age and with his thought process, it got messed up.”

Rowe attended an open house last Saturday at Southern Maine Community College, but left the tour early. He was planning to enroll in the Maine Maritime Academy, where his brother is a freshman.

But on Tuesday, David Rowe found his son in the garage of their Westbrook home. He called 911 and tried to revive Joshua, but was unsuccessful.

“It’s surreal,” David Rowe said. “For the first couple of days, I was in shock. The reality is hitting me now. My wife and I are both questioning where we went wrong and what we could have done to prevent this. It’s a guilt thing right now. We don’t know if that will ever go away. We are still trying to process things.”

Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts said police are investigating to determine the cause of Rowe’s death, which she said is standard in procedure unattended deaths.

“There will not be any criminal charges pursued against anybody,” she said. “It is a true tragedy.”

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

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