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Days after dying of cancer, teen elected homecoming king by a landslide

Students at Harlingen High School in Texas honored a classmate only days after his death from cancer by voting him homecoming king.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Only four days after Nick Peters passed away following a seven-year battle with leukemia, classmates at Harlingen High School in Texas voted him homecoming king in a landslide victory.

“It brings a lot of emotion to the surface every time — just knowing how much he was loved,” Judi Peters, Nick’s mom, told TODAY.

Related: Homecoming king turns crown over to friend and runner-up with cerebral palsy

While Nick’s cancer kept him away from school except for part of his junior year, his middle-school friend, Norman Torres, 17, reconnected with Nick, also 17, in the past year. The two first became friends while playing tennis as doubles partners in middle school. But then Torres began visiting Nick, who was at Houston Cancer Center, when Torres went to MD Anderson Cancer Center for his own cancer treatment.

“We kind of battled cancer together,” said Torres, who has been in remission since June. “We were connected in a way most people weren’t.”

Norman Torres and Nick Peters
Norman Torres visited Nick Peters after he received a bone marrow transplant, which doctors hoped would help Peters. He died in early October and Torres nominated Peters for homecoming king, which he won in a landslide.Judi Peters

Related: Pennsylvania students, both with Down syndrome, voted homecoming queen and king

After Nick died on Oct. 3, Torres wanted to honor his friend while giving students a chance to show the Peters family how Nick's death moved them. As class president, he encouraged the class officers to nominate Nick for homecoming king. Soon, momentum started building.

“Everyone was pushing to get Nick elected,” said Peters. “I think he’s amazing. Somewhere along the way he kind of became amazing to other people, too.”

Torres invited the Peters family to the dance on Oct. 7, and Nick's siblings, Ashley, 20, and Noah, 12, joined their mother to hear the announcement.

Ashley and Nick Peters
Ashley Peters donated her bone marrow to her brother Nick, who had been fighting leukemia for seven years.Judi Peters

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“We went hoping obviously that it would be him,” said Ashley. “When they said his name it was a very special and emotional moment and I really think it shows what kind of people his classmates were.”

Torres accepted the crown and sash before giving them to the Peters family.

“Norman has a very strong influence in the high school and kind of used that to make a positive impact and honor Nick and his legacy,” Ashley said.

Noah Peters, Norman Torres
Noah Peters (left) accepted the homecoming king crown on behalf of his brother, Nick who died just four days before the dance. Norman Torres (right), who knew Nick since middle school, nominated Nick to honor his memory.Judi Peters

Related: 'She loves life': Teen with cerebral palsy named homecoming queen

The Peters family feels overwhelmed by the kindness and support Nick received from the community and school.

“It will be something we remember always,” Ashley said.

But she said her brother probably would have hated winning homecoming king — for the best reasons.

“He was very humble and wouldn’t wanted all the attention,” she said.

Ashley Peters
Ashley Peters wore the homecoming crown and sash that her brother, Nick, couldn't wear. Only four days after his death, his classmates voted him homecoming king.Judi Peters

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That’s because Nick put others before himself. Even when he was so sick that he was barely conscious, he comforted Ashley when she cried, or asked the nurses if they had breakfast because it was the most important meal of the day.

“He always cared about everyone else,” Ashley said. “He never wanted to be the cancer kid and he never was because he made something of himself.”

Related: Leukemia survivor learns to walk for beautiful surprise at daughter's wedding

For much of his seven-year bout with cancer, Nick was homebound, but he did well in school and kept busy. He taught himself how to develop apps and sold them and also started a personal cooking business, where he made meals to be delivered to his neighbors.

“Nick really inspired me. And he was such a strong and bright kid and never once did I see him show any fear ... about the cards he was handed,” Ashley said. “He truly was a positive."