FREMONT -- Diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease when he was only 10, Phillip Bennett found inspiration where others might have met only frustration.

The disease, Friedreich's ataxia, eventually robbed Bennett of his ability to walk, to speak and to care for himself. But he compensated by figuring out how to water-ski, becoming a shot-putter and graduating from college -- all with a joyful abandon that continues to inspire those he left behind when he died at age 27.

"There were a couple of times he wasn't sure if he wanted to live, but he ultimately decided that he was going to not only live, but live to the maximum and make every second count," said Jaime Richards, Bennett's former teacher and a writer who helped complete his 191-page book, "Living the Decision: A Pocket Guide to Cramming 72 Years into 27."

Read More: 'Cramming 72 years into 27': Book by late Fremont man offers inspiration