Former Ceres High School multi-sport athlete Austin Stiles died in a car accident on Dec. 1 in Acampo.
He was just 24 years old.
Family members shared the devastating news on social media.
"This is probably the hardest post I will have to make, but with heavy hearts I do want to confirm that it is true that our wonderful kind big hearted boy Austin has left us," mother Meliesa Branson-Stiles wrote on Instagram. "I am so sorry to share this news this way but it is so hard for us to notify all of the people who he loved and cared about."
"I want to thank everyone that has reached out, we appreciate you so much," she added. "The posts!!! Omg the flood of love and the outpouring of support and love you all had for my boy is overwhelming. I just wish he was here to see how many lives and how many people loved him. The stories, the pictures, I love them all I wish I could wrap my arms around each of you and thank you for loving him. Please continue to pray for us."
"This world lost a man who i loved more than anything," said Allison Stiles, Austin's youngest sister. "A man that loved everyone around him more than anything. A guy that would do anything for anyone. A man i thought was simply perfect. My brother was my biggest role model. Not just to me. But to many people. He was my bestfriend. My biggest cheerleader and the one i always strived to be like everyday. You made me and your sisters feel like queens."
Stiles' unexpected passing elicited an outpouring of memories, tributes and prayers on social media.
Les Bonsu of Bonsu Elite Athletics (BEA) in Ceres trained Stiles.
Stiles spent so much time at BEA he formed a friendship with Bonsu, his wife Yvonne and their daughter London. He was in their wedding party.
Stiles also volunteered at the training facility as he relished providing advice to and working with younger athletes.
"My family and I are devastated," Bonsu said. "Austin was an angel on Earth and loved anyone he met unconditionally and was always there to help anyone or offer support or encouragement genuinely without asking for anything in return. He loved his family, and he loved hard. We loved you like a son, and this hurts so much. The Lord always has a plan, but this one I just will never understand. Austin, you know you were a big brother to London, like a son to Yvonne and I, an amazing son to your parents, an incredible brother to your siblings, a true friend to many, and so much more. Please pray for the Stiles family and please honor their privacy during this difficult time as they mourn the loss of their child."
Brett Johnson was Stiles' track and field and football coach at Ceres High School.
"Austin was a bright light wherever he was," Johnson said. "I was fortunate to have the pleasure of watching him grow into an amazing young man. It was a pleasure coaching him, as well as coaching with him. He was always quick with a smile and willing to help others. This loss is not right, not fair and is unable to be understood. The good Lord has a plan, we just aren't privy to it. Much love and prayers for the Stiles family. May God comfort all of you through this time. We are praying for you."
Stiles graduated from Ceres High School in 2016.
He starred in football, basketball and track and field.
Stiles earned all-Western Athletic Conference honors in all three sports during his senior year.
A first-team all-WAC receiver, Stiles caught 64 passes for 1,015 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games. He led the conference in receptions, yards and TDs. Stiles earned an invitation to play in the 43rd Annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game.
Stiles averaged 11.8 points per game on his way to earning second-team all-league accolades in basketball. He helped lead the Bulldog to their second straight Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance and a third-place finish in the WAC standings (8-4).
Stiles won the high-jump title at the 2016 WAC Track & Field Championships.
He topped competitors from Livingston, Los Banos and Pacheco en route to posting a perfect 3-0 record during the conference dual season.
Stiles cleared a personal-best 6 feet, 6 inches while finishing first at County Clash IV event.
He also placed first at the Stanislaus County Meet.
Stiles' football career came to an abrupt end at College of San Mateo in 2017 due to a spinal condition.
He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis after having multiple surgeries to repair hip and groin injuries.
“I’m just focused on taking steps forward and trying to make the situation better for myself,” Stiles said while being interviewed by the Courier in January. “I can’t thank my family enough and all the coaches that helped me. I started to live life again and have fun. There’s more to life than sports and being in the gym.”
Stiles leaves behind his loving family, including parents Sam and Meliesa, and siblings Ramon, Ashlee, Alyssa and Allison, and countless friends.
A funeral service will be held for Stiles at 11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 13 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 4300 Geer Road in Turlock. Burial will be at Lakewood Cemetery in Hughson with a reception to follow at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lakewood Funeral Home on Sunday, Dec. 12 in Hughson.