Flagler County, FL – In Flagler County the name Gilyard is synonymous with football and performance athletics, but on Monday morning social media was a light for a different reason.
Sending shockwaves across the student body of Flagler Palm Coast High School, students and alumni posted early morning messages of disbelief and remembrance for classmate Nehemiah Gilyard as news of his passing circulated.
Involved in single car accident late Sunday evening on County Road 302, the 18-year old junior did not survive the crash.
More than just a football player at Flagler Palm Coast High School, he was a friend, a classmate, a brother and a son, and the impact of his passing was felt deeply by all who knew him.
“He was a very humble and respectful son,” said Nehemiah’s father Sim Gilyard. “He was just getting ready to start on the defense team with FPC his senior year, and becoming a track star athlete. His smile would light up the room.”
“He will be deeply missed by everyone, especially me and his siblings, but never forgotten. His legacy will live on through us,” he said.
Shannon Bass Gutierrez met Neo several years ago when he was a freshman and her son was a senior. With her daughter Essie’s involvement in football, she said they’d had a chance to get to know him better.
“He was the most humble, caring, respectful young man,” said Gutierrez.
“He has been to my house a handful of times and just always (had) a smile on his face. I believe it’s (been) a big impact. My daughter’s first words (were) “I will never be able to hug him again”.
“We are just now getting back to somewhat normal, schools are open full capacity, sports are allowing spectators. It’s just such a shock that a person like him, his life was cut so short. All I know is our family will forever hold a place in our hearts and keep his name alive,” she said.
FPC Class of 2020 graduate Tyler Gates was a longtime friend of Gilyard’s. Currently stationed in Texas as a member of the U.S. Air Force, he was stunned to learn of the loss of his friend.
“I’ve known him since I was 11 being part of many sports, and being connected to many people, it definitely affected people emotionally. People felt like they lost a great friend or brother,” said Gates before sharing a fond memory. “The thing I always remembered about him is that he always loved to do crazy stuff and wasn’t afraid to have fun.”
Nehemiah’s mother Lizette Harvey said his loss didn’t just impact the community, but generations to come.
“His loss impacted the schools, teammates, friends and family. You had to get to know him as a person,” shared Harvey.
“He was very soft-spoken and he loved from the heart. He’s going to be deeply missed as he was a respectful child. He loved his family, friends and teammates, as well. This will be a hard situation to deal with losing someone at this young age. As a person, athlete and an up-and-coming star, he will be truly missed.”
Flagler School Board member Colleen Conklin said grief support would be available for students processing the loss of their friend as they returned to campus on Tuesday.
“We will have grief counselors on campus tomorrow to support our students and staff,” said Conklin. “There is absolutely nothing worse than getting the news that we have lost a student. The loss resonates through the entire Flagler school family. From the teachers and staff who have known Nehemiah since his early years to his teammates and friends, this is a tragic reminder of how fragile life is. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Updated: 2/19/2021
The family of Nehemiah Gilyard has announced his service will take place on February 27th at the United Methodist Church, 6500 North Belle Terre Parkway, Palm Coast, FL at 1pm, and will be held in the open pavilion.
A GoFundMe to support a local scholarship in his name has been created and the community is invited to donate by visiting https://www.gofundme.com/…/nehemiah-gilyard-scholarship

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