Brookhaven Academy Memorializes Fallen Sixth Grader

Mississippi Wildlife Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 2
By Dr. Marty Brunson

Summer 2001

A recent article in the Brookhaven Daily Leader relays the story of how a group of sixth grade students at Brookhaven Academy mustered their collective energies in memory of a classmate.  The article begins with the words , An empty desk heads the row in a corner of a Brookhaven Academy sixth grade classroom.  A sticker with the words “Josh Thurman” graces the desk.  ‘That was his desk,’ said teacher Holly Franklin, pointing to the piece of furniture.  ‘One of the students put that sticker on it to remember him.’

Had I known nothing else of this story, I would have still been touched by the first few lines.  But, as Paul Harvey, might say, “the rest of the story” is what really means something to me.  You see, weeks before the article, Mrs. Franklin had contacted me to inquire about the possibility of working with Catch-A-Dream to establish a memorial to young Josh.  She relayed that the sixth graders, indeed the whole school and community, had lost Josh in March to a tragic ATV accident.  She shared with me that Josh’s classmates wanted to do something different than is often done in these situations.  Rather than one of the many fitting and appropriate memorials that students and schools often make when a friend is lost, this group of kids wanted to make a difference in the lives of  other youngsters in Josh’s memory.

They reasoned that if Josh could so profoundly impact his friends during his short lifetime, why not position his memorial to continue that influence and impact upon other young people?  This passion, coupled with the school’s long-time affiliation with the Bruce Brady family, led to the conclusion that the most fitting way to permanently memorialize their fallen friend would be to contribute in his name to the Catch-A-Dream Program.

Seems the class had decided earlier in the year to contribute to some charity as a class project, but had not concluded what kind of fund raiser they might do nor to which charity they might contribute.  Josh’s death brought the issue to immediate focus, and there was little doubt in the children’s minds what to do.

They knew of Josh’s passion for the outdoors.  Another sixth grade teacher, Lucy Watts, says “It’s just what he loved.”  They also knew of his love for Jesus.  “He was a Christian and he wasn’t afraid to share it,” says Watts.  They remembered his enthusiasm, and his desire to influence other young people.  When the Catch-A-Dream program was mentioned, it was clear that this would be the perfect way to remember their friend and to ensure that his influence would be exerted to other young people in the future.  Sally Beth Allred, a classmate, said “It’s in memory of Josh…because he loved to hunt and fish.”

The class set a fund-raising goal of $4,000-5,000, and set out to work the community, asking friends, family and businesses to help them honor their lost classmate.  After several weeks of dedicated effort, the sixth-grade class was ready to present to Mrs. Peggy Brady a check for $4500 to support Catch-A-Dream in memory of Josh Thurman!

The presentation, part of the graduation exercises for the class, was emotion packed.  Mrs. Watts said “It pleases me to see the children involved and excited.  They’re learning responsibility and to be service-minded.  It’s a growing-up experience in more ways than one.”  Josh’s teacher, Holly Franklin added, “They’re learning that it’s OK to give.  It’s a part of the healing process for them.”

Members of the Brady family were on-hand to thank the class and all of those in the community who had a hand in this labor of love.  “Bruce loved children, and he was dedicated to the Academy’s education mission.  This was so meaningful to me, to be able to share in honoring Josh’s memory, to see the faces of these youngsters who loved him and miss him so much, and to have it all happen with hometown folks,” said Mrs. Brady.  “Bruce would be thrilled and deeply honored.”

On behalf of Catch-A-Dream, Mrs. Brady presented a recognition plaque to the class, naming them permanent “Catch-A-Dream Supporting Partners.”  The plaque will remain with the class as a visual reminder of their friend, Josh.  Josh’s classmates will have the opportunity to meet the future Catch-A-Dream outdoor dream recipient(s) who benefit from the funds contributed in his memory.  Recognition  plaques were presented to the School, and special dedications  were made to Josh’s parents, Dean and Tammy Thurman of Brookhaven and Stephanie and Jerry Dickerson of Jayess.

Contributions to Catch-A-Dream are tax deductible.  Gifts to the program can take the form of cash contributions, in-kind goods or services.  Contributions may be made in memory or in honor of loved one, or in memory of Mr. Bruce Brady himself.  Contributions may take the form of direct donations or, as we did with Josh Thurman’s classmates, we can work with individuals, groups or businesses to customize either a planned giving program or a fund raising effort.  Checks should be made payable to “Catch-A-Dream,” and may be mailed either to MWF or to the Mississippi 4-H Foundation at Box 9061, Mississippi State, MS 39762.  For more information, contact me at 662-325-3174.