A large group of family, friends, law enforcement, and community supporters gathered on Saturday, February 24, at Richland Gym in Portland, TN, for a Memorial Sign Unveiling to honor Nicolas Townsend Read.
Nick ,who attended Portland High School and had plans to go into the military and become a Portland Police Officer, had been volunteering at the Special Olympics with his girlfriend, Anna, and her family the day before he was set to graduate in 2015. But on the way home, he, Anna, and her mother, Samantha, were hit by a drunk driver. Nick died two days later on May 17.
Friends and family spoke of the hard-working young man who was a friend to many. They spoke of his heart – how caring he was and how he mentored fellow Marine JROTC members. But they also remembered his spirit – a fun-loving kid who made people laugh.
It was his caring side that touched JROTC Sgt. John Griffin most. He told the crowd about Nick and what Nick had meant to their unit and his fellow cadets. He talked about the special relationship he had with Nick. Sgt. Griffin was proud to have served as a guide and confidant to Nick and talked of how much their conversations had meant to him. One conversation, in particular, had been life-changing. Sgt. Griffin’s wife had been on a kidney transplant list for seven years. They had discussed the importance of organ donation and Nick had decided to become a donor. Little did either know, how important that conversation would really be. When Nick died, seven recipients benefited from that decision, and received Nick’s organs.
Nick’s mom, Tanya, had initially resisted the idea of some kind of roadside memorial where her son had been hit. She insisted, “He’s not at some spot on the side of the road.” Instead, she wanted people to see her son and remember him in the places where he lived: at the soccer field, at the high school, at the ranch with the horses… But she decided to apply to Tennessee’s Memorial Sign Program because she hopes that the sign will serve as a reminder to everyone who passes that a young man lost his life to something that was totally preventable. “I don’t want any other family to have to go through what our family has gone through,” she said as she spoke to the crowd. She pleaded with everyone to make better choices and to plan ahead for a designated driver if plans included alcohol and to avoid using cell phones while driving.
It was obvious what an impact Nick has had on the Portland community. The Portland Police Department had made him an honorary member. PPD Officers were in attendance at the ceremony as well as several members of the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office and a representative of the Tennessee Highway Safety Office. Fellow Portland Panthers who attended high school with Nick were also at the ceremony.
The sign honoring Nick is at the corner of Hwy 52 and College Street in Portland, TN.
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