‘He had the biggest heart’: Northern California Father hears slain son’s heartbeat in organ recipient

VACAVILLE, Calif. -- A Northern California father honored his slain son's wishes by donating the teen's heart and kidneys, and, on Tuesday, he met the local high school football coach whose life the organs helped save.

Gary Cromwell's son, Gary Jr., died after he was shot and killed Aug. 20 in Fairfield. He was 19.

The loss was devastating for the Cromwell family, but it would lead to hope for one Vacaville family.

Cromwell's son's heart and kidneys were donated to Rene Reynolds, a Vacaville High School football coach who was in need of a transplant. In middle school Gary Jr. was a quarterback for a team that would beat Reynolds' players.

"He had the biggest heart. The biggest beautiful eyes. And the prettiest smile in the world," Cromwell said.

The Cromwell family chose Reynolds specifically to receive their son's organs. They were a perfect match.

"That's what my son wanted. No matter what his final words would have been, it was going to be fulfilled. Somehow, someway he wanted to be a donor," Cromwell said.

Reynolds' wife, Sherrie, calls the match a miracle.

"This is a miracle. From tragedy that only God could've orchestrated. There's no other explanation,  if you're not a believer, there is no way that you can witness this and not know it was God's hand in everything," she said.

Tuesday, Cromwell was able to hear the beat of his son's heart once again as he met Coach Reynolds for the first time.

"You have a big heart in you right now," Cromwell told Reynolds.

The heartache is real for the Cromwell family, but they were comforted knowing that Gary lives on.

"This is my brother now," Reynolds said, holding Cromwell's hand. "We are brothers now forever."

Now, the Cromwells hope others will follow their son's example.

"Seeing the coach's smile today," he said. "Everybody needs to go to (the) DMV and check that donor box and just help the family out."

Cromwell's family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with funeral costs.