Above: Kyle Bell, top, pictured when he was 16, hugs his younger brother, St. Francis High School goalkeeper Jordan Bell, who died in 2008 of sudden heart failure.
By Miguel A. Melendez
This story appeared in page 3B of Star-News sports section on March 18
His chubby cheeks, frizzy, curly hair and infectious smile never were difficult to spot from the sidelines.
St. Francis High School boys soccer keeper Jordan Bell, patiently waiting for the action to come his way, always felt, saw and heard encouragement from older brother Kyle Joseph Bell standing from afar.
Regardless of the play’s final outcome, Jordan never once second-guessed he’d lose interest from his No. 1 fan.
But then came Aug. 29, 2008. What was supposed to be a routine Friday was anything but.
That morning, Jordan’s father, Jim Bell, went to Kyle’s room to wake him. The frantic effort was in vain. Kyle, 22, died in his sleep. Sudden heart failure was the culprit.
This came just as Jordan was getting ready for the upcoming 2008-09 season.
Although his physical presence no longer was on the sideline, Jordan made a conscience effort to feel his spirit.
The initials “KJB” are written on the side of Jordan’s cleats, just as they are on his captain’s armband. And just before he settles into the goal crease, Jordan bends over and, with his right index finger, tries to inscribe his brother’s initials in the grass, A simple gesture becomes a great tribute, and Kyle again is there providing comfort.
“There were many times this season when I could see him smiling and laughing,” Jordan said. “I could feel him over my shoulder.”
The Golden Knights finished fourth in the always tough Mission League this season. A deep CIF-Southern Section Division I playoff run ended abruptly in the semifinals when Long Beach Millikan scored two lucky goals. Rams coach Rod Petkovic admitted as much.
Jordan and the rest of his senior teammates’ season seemingly was over, but that’s what made it even more climatic.
St. Francis was invited to the CIF Southern California Division II Regionals. Another opportunity for redemption, not just for Jordan but also Kyle.
“He played water polo (at South Pasadena High) and I remember when he lost in the playoffs, how sad and depressed he was,” Jordan said.
“I did this for him. We both got our redemption.”
The spotlight was for the taking, and Jordan took the stage confident as ever in making one impressive save after another.
And now, Jordan will inscribe “KJB” in his shiny CIF championship ring. After all, it was “KJB” that went along for the ride, goal after goal and save after save.
Remembering Kyle is as endearing as it is sad.
He was much more than a friend. He was a confidant, the epitome of a true caregiver.
Karen Bell, Jordan’s mother, is a fourth-grade teacher at Ramona Elementary in Alhambra.
A recent assignment rekindled one of those bittersweet moments.
When Kyle was in the fourth grade, he had a project in which he had to build a mission. He not only built an extravagant model, but on the day it was due he helped a classmate build one, too.
“He was one of those kids that didn’t get much help at home,” Karen recalled, “and (Kyle) didn’t want him to be the only one to walk into class without a mission.”
Hovering over trash bins and digging through rubble, Kyle found an empty box and built it.
“He was a remarkable giver and he had the (most tender) heart you can imagine,” Karen said. “He had what I called an uncommon heart. From the time since he was a tiny boy he had a gift for empathy, and he just seemed to always want to be helpful to other people.
“He had a special fondness and a desire to protect people who were picked on.”
While working as a runner for the “Dr. Phil Show” at Paramount Studios, Kyle befriended a homeless man with whom he later shared lunches.
Kyle was warm-hearted, and some might call him a gentle giant. He played club rugby in high school, and the thought of Kyle loving such a brutal sport still is unfathomable to Karen.
“How could someone with such a tender heart choose to play such a ruthless sport?” she joked.
In his honor, the Bell family formed a team to serve dinner at Union Station on the first Monday of every month.
“We’re trying to pay it forward for the rest of our lives,” Karen said.
It’s easy to see why Jordan finds perspective in this most difficult time.
“Yeah, I lost an older brother,” Jordan said, “but I gained a guardian angel who I know will always be watching over me.”
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