He didn't let leukemia keep him down or define him, his family and friends said. "It never broke his spirit."
Conor Smith liked to do the things other teens do: shoot hoops with friends, play video games and just hang out.
But in his 4 1/2-year battle with leukemia, the Eagan High School student also showed a grace and wit beyond his years.
"We always said he was an old soul," said his father, Tim Smith. "He always took care of the little kids and the people who needed help. He bonded with the elderly. ... He was an amazing fighter who didn't ever let [the cancer] get the best of him. He stayed true to who he was -- a caring, giving person who worried about others first."
Conor, who was about to start his sophomore year, died Friday at age 15.
"A couple days ago, he was fighting for every last breath and kept fighting no matter what," said his friend Alex Broberg. "He was very strong-willed."
Broberg said his friend left him with a life lesson. "I learned you don't quit fighting for what you want," he said. "And you enjoy everything while you have it."
Doctors discovered a brain tumor in Conor Smith when he was in fifth grade. By sixth grade, his leukemia had been diagnosed, his father said.
After several years of treatment, he suffered relapses last summer and again this past June.
"His next option was a bone marrow transplant," his father said. But injuries suffered in a July 3 ATV accident complicated issues, his father said. He spent most of the summer in the hospital, and that was frustrating to the teen.
"But it never broke his spirit," his father said. "He always liked to have fun. ... He had a dry, sarcastic humor. He would roll his eyes or say a couple of words that would put you in your place."
Conor Smith was a good student, a voracious reader and an avid sports fan who was devoted to the Green Bay Packers and the University of Wisconsin Badgers. He loved to play basketball. In the fall of 2009, he made headlines when he was cut from an Eagan Traveling Basketball Association team because his cancer treatment kept him from participating in the required tryouts. The Mendota Heights Athletic Association stepped in, giving him a spot on one of their teams.
"He just felt that people take sports too seriously at that age level," his father said. "But he got past it. He had no ill will and moved on."
In addition to his father, he is survived by his mother, Hope; grandfather Leon Rothlisberger of Northfield, Minn., and grandfather Harold Smith of Eau Claire, Wis.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Klecatsky and Sons Eagan chapel and an hour before services at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Church of St. Thomas Becket in Eagan.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788