'A small-town kid with a bigger-than-life attitude,' a family friend remembers victim of fatal mauling

 Anthony Davis Montoya smiles for a senior photo. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Bell.
Anthony Davis Montoya smiles for a senior photo. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Bell. (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 1, 2018 at 11:37 PM AKDT
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A small community in Oklahoma is mourning the death of Anthony David Montoya, who was fatally mauled by a sow grizzly and two cubs at a mine south of Juneau on Monday.

Channel 2 spoke with a close family friend, Kimberly Bell, who grew up with Montoya’s mother in Hollis, Oklahoma. Bell says Montoya carried a smile with him everywhere he went.

"When Shark Bait walked in, you knew it's fixin' to be crazy,” she said. “He's gonna' do something silly to make somebody laugh."

Shark Bait, an endearing nickname, earned from being the small guy on the team.

"The football guys, he was the small one,” Bell said. “And it was so funny when he'd get out on the field. He didn't get a lot of playin' time, but when he did, all the big guys surrounded him, you know, nobody could touch Shark Bait."

Montoya was a ranch hand. He held a job at the local sell barn. Bell says he was a hard worker, but still managed to have fun on the job.

"He just kind of had this laughter and smile that just was contagious,” Bell said. “And it has rocked our whole community."

Bell’s daughter London grew up with Montoya in Hollis. They posed in pictures together before their graduation in May; before he set off on a new adventure to work in Alaska.

"We were so excited that he was able to find a job and get to start working in something that he was really excited about,” Bell said.

But that excitement came to a horrific end Monday morning, when Montoya was

A spokesperson with Hecla Greens Creek Mine says the area where Montoya was killed is so remote it can only be reached by helicopter.

One of the hardest parts, Bell says, is his birthday was a week away.

"It's really devastating for all of us,” Bell said. “I mean, he just graduated five months ago. And his birthday, he was fixin' to be 19 Oct. 8th."

Montoya’s mother passed away in June 2017, according to Bell. She says he endured many such hardships in life, but he always came up smiling.

"He just had to overcome a bunch of obstacles, and not once would you ever, ever have known that," Bell said. "We are blessed to have been able to have him in our lives. And we're better off for that."

Bell said the community of Hollis is already working to commemorate Montoya’s life, but they will wait until he returns home to hold the funeral.