Death of a West Branch Student

West Branch grieves the loss of a student.


Image/Graphics by Carly Watro

The last photo taken of Blake at school, in Mr. Mason’s math class.

On August 3rd, 2022, beloved West Branch student Blake Matthew Gooch passed away unexpectedly. Blake was born in Colorado on September 12th, 2007. He moved to Allport, Pennsylvania in the 2017-2018 school year with his little brother Evan, who is now 9 years old.

Blake started school at West Branch in 6th grade and met CJ Cizio, his first friend. CJ described his and Blake’s friendship as very close: “Blake was more of a brother to me than my actual siblings.” When CJ was asked what kind of person he thought Blake was, he responded: “He was a hard worker, determined, and very funny.” Blake’s death strongly impacted everyone, including teachers, friends, family, and even strangers. “Blake was a very outgoing person; he was willing to do anything,” explained a close friend, Colton Wise.

If you did not know Blake, he was tall with dark brown fluffy hair and hazel eyes. He loved spending time with others, mostly because he never liked being alone. His friend Gabby Cole, a student from Clearfield, said, “He was goofy and funny, and no matter what he was going through he was sweet and always smiled.” Blake’s personality was so sweet and caring that it was impossible to stay mad at him. He was very forgiving and cared about others so much; he never had time to step back and focus on himself. His friends always told him he should think more about himself, but he worried too much about others. He was always appreciative of all the small things that he would cherish everything handmade or gifted to him.

Blake liked to walk to the park and swing on the swings before dark. He enjoyed music, including listening to his favorite song while having deep discussions. Blake was so easygoing that he would let his friends do anything to him. For example, he would allow his friends to cut his hair and do his makeup while never complaining because he would do anything to make his friends smile.

Many are left devastated, confused, and even angry at Blake’s passing, but his friends, family, and classmates want to remember Blake in the most positive way possible. Many of his friends from all over, including Hope Croyle and Owen Plieseis, mentioned that hats and beanies will always be something to remind them of Blake. Just by talking to teachers and classmates, it is apparent that his passing has been difficult not only for those who were close to him but also for those who were not. “The news hit me like a truck,” said 10th-grade student Dawn Glover.

Blake’s teacher, Mr. Mason, reflected: “what we have at West Branch is a strong connection– like family– and a small community as all students at West Branch do. Blake started to come along as a student. He was more focused and got better grades. It was very hard for me– it still is– anytime we lose a young person in our community, it’s the worst thing. If I could tell Blake one thing it would be that I miss you; I wish you were still here.”

All of Blake’s friends described him as a fantastic person. Even after his death, Blake was a great person and saved seven lives by being an organ donor. One of the seven people was a 41-year-old man who received Blake’s heart because it was too big to be given to a teenager or child. The other six recipients accepted pieces of his liver that will regenerate, a lung, his two kidneys, and his pancreas. Blake’s life and legacy will live on with his gift of life, and the memories he leaves behind with friends and family.