Hundreds upon hundreds of friends and family overflowed Greenlawn Funeral Home Southwest on Sunday to remember and celebrate the life of Will Smith.

Smith, who was widely regarded as a standout basketball player at Bakersfield High and Bakersfield College and was a former head coach at West High, died last Monday at the age of 53 after suffering a heart attack. 

Smith suffered from atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat that can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood through the body.

Tears flowed throughout the afternoon for Smith. Many were tears of sadness over the loss, but there were also tears of joy from loved ones sharing memories of Smith as a person.

It all came down to one thing for Smith.

"In every sense of the word, he was a good person," said Dean Jones, Smith's cousin. "You hear that a lot, but in this case the meaning really holds true. He was an all-around good person."

Through all the memories and stories told about Smith, his personality could be boiled down to three key points.

Smith was a loving and caring person.

Smith genuinely loved everybody, especially his family; his wife, Gurmit, his children, Saveena and Jalen, his father, Will Sr., and his sister, Cherry.

Many speakers said that a good way to honor Smith's legacy is to love others the way that he loved them.

"The way (Saveena and Jalen) can honor their dad is to grow up and be good people," said Jones.

Karen Gill, Smith's sister-in-law, recalled how difficult it was in the beginning of his relationship with Gurmit and gaining acceptance with her family.

"Despite the lack of family support, Will could have been resentful, and rightfully so, but he wasn't," said Gill. "He kept smiling and with his calm and kind personality he won everyone over."

It showed with the amount of people from his wife's side of the family who attended to pay tribute to him on Sunday.

"He lived with a heart that forgave, a heart that brought joy, a heart that was genuine," said Gill. "And the tragic irony was that same heart took Will away forever."

Smith was a passionate man.

No matter what he did, he was passionate about it, whether it was basketball or watching his kids play sports or even interests and projects his friends and family had going on. It was a passion that was only matched by his wife.

Smith was so dedicated that he would immediately chaperone out-of-state trips with his wife for traveling teams his son and other kids were playing for. 

Another speaker also joked that the only time he ever saw Smith get angry was when he was coaching basketball.

Sean Mullen, Smith's best friend who he met years ago in San Diego while working for State Farm Insurance, recalled a story back when their sons were freshmen at Stockdale High about five years ago.

Their sons were good baseball players at the time and the coach wanted them to play varsity level ball, which they thought was unusual and would upset some people. 

"One game, I saw Will heading to our bullpen, down to the Athletic Director, and I said 'Will, where are you going?'", said Mullen. "Will replied, 'Sean, I want some permission to go whoop some ass!' I said 'Will, you're a schoolteacher, that's a real problem, don't do that.' He looked at me and he said 'Well, if I don't, Gurmit will!'"

Smith was a fun-loving man who always had a big smile.

"We will remember him greeting everyone with a hug, connecting with some sort of witty inside joke or imparting his wisdom especially when it came to sports," said Gill.

One of the reoccurring themes of the memories about Smith was his big smile, which was displayed front and center on his program and on pictures and videos displayed throughout the funeral home.

"Through it all there was Will's smile," said Gill. "A smile that transcended any day with light and showed the promise of a new morning after a long night."

Mullen recalled another story about Smith from a Halloween Party.

"Me and my wife dressed up as Fred and Wilma Flintstone and all Will wanted to do was be Darth Vader (from "Star Wars")," said Mullen. "So he came up behind me and said 'I have to be honest with you, Fred, Wilma's way better looking than you are."

After much laughter, Mullen continued his story.

"Gurmit was Princess Leia, and I said 'You're date is awfully pretty too, but she's your daughter," which got an even bigger laugh.

"And I'll never forget but he looked me in the eye and said 'But tonight, I'm Lord Vader and I'm going to go get a Bud Light!'"

The family had asked in the funeral program that in lieu of flowers, a donation should be made to the American Heart Association. According to the AHA, every 43 seconds, someone dies from a heart disease. If you think you may be suffering from any sort of heart issues, please visit your doctor.

Josh Bennett can be reached at 661-395-7393. Follow him on Twitter: @jhb4th.

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