HOLLIS, Okla. - Anthony Montoya, better known by his nickname, “Shark Bait,” just went back and visited his hometown of Hollis in far southwestern Oklahoma two weeks ago.
Little did his family and friends know, it would be his last time there.
He graduated from Hollis High School in May and moved more than 3,000 miles away to work for a mining company.
On Monday, he was fatally mauled by a mother bear and her two cubs.
He was a contract employee for Hecla Greens Creek Mine.
The mine reported the incident Monday occurred at a remote drill site accessible only by helicopter.
“I mean he’s Shark Bait. Everybody knows Shark Bait,” said Trent Shelby who is a coach at Hollis High School.
Shelby gave Montoya the nickname, named after a Finding Nemo character who was kind of the underdog.
Montoya played several sports for the school, but was a little guy, standing only about 5’3” tall and weighting 120 pounds.
He was beloved by the entire town of Hollis.
He had a rough upbringing and lost his mom last year, but the town kind of adopted him.
"We did our best to protect Shark from that. He did, he had a lot of obstacles to overcome and he truly did defy the odds,” said Reagan Hightower, who coached Montoya in track.
When Montoya left Hollis, they were all proud of him.
"Most kids, they graduate here and if they make it to Altus, your'e proud of them. This guy made it to Alaska, you know and was working and making good money,” said Shelby.
The news of his untimely death and the way he died left the town in shock.
"It's hard to wrap your mind around a kid from southwest Oklahoma being killed by a bear, you know,” said Shelby.
Montoya’s death comes during homecoming week for his school.
The football team plans to do something special to commemorate the recent graduate at their game Friday night.
"We're looking to get a bunch of balloons to release before the game and a moment of silence for him. We're going to carry his jersey out,” said football coach, Patrick Bronn.
"He never wanted you to be upset. Even if you were mad or you were crying, doesn't matter. He was always trying to make you happy,” said Brandon Dugger, Montoya’s best friend.
Dugger says Montoya had just looked for jobs closer to home the last time he was back and that he was planning to leave Alaska.
"He told me he wanted to be closer to his family,” said Dugger.
Now he won’t get that opportunity.
But his hometown will always remember the kid they say had a heart of gold.
"He didn't have a whole lot and he had a tough life. But he was always willing to do anything for anyone,” said Bronn.
The incident occurred near the silver mine on Admiralty Island about 18 miles southwest of Juneau.