Brady Singleton was an adorable 3-year-old little boy who attracted attention everywhere he went. He never met a stranger and he loved giving high-fives. Sitting in a restraurant, he would yell “hi” to everyone that walked in, rather he knew them or not! And Brady knew a lot of people! The family lived in Polk County, Tennessee, and Brady’s dad, Ron, taught high school and coached baseball at Copper Basin High School in Copperhill, TN. But his mom, Shirley, and grandfather, Grady Anderson, taught at Hiwassee Dam Elementary/Middle School just across the state line in North Carolina. That meant Brady was adored by friends, family, students, and coworkers from three counties!
Brady loved animals, especially elephants, so the family had been to visit zoos in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Murphy, NC. Brady had a deep affection, specifically, for two dogs, Buddy, a mixed breed, and Pepper, a black Pomeranian. He was very gentle when petting animals and expressing his love for them. But, Brady also had a great affinity for tractors. His favorite toy was a battery powered John Deere tractor. Brady especially adored his grandparents and they doted upon their only grandchild. He loved spending time on their farm and having Grady take him out to see the cattle. The farm, where Brady’s mother had grown up, was on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.
On April 29, 2008, Shirley dropped Brady off to spend the day with his grandparents while she and Ron were at work. That afternoon, Grady took Brady on an ATV ride on Old Ducktown Road, a small gravel rode that ran through the middle of the farm. The rode was half in Tennessee and half in North Carolina and at the end of that road, on the Tennessee side, was a “beer joint.” Two men and a woman who had been drinking since early that morning stopped there to buy more alcohol. But the clerk, recognizing they were already too drunk to be served, refused to sell it to them. They left and headed down Old Ducktown Road where they hit Brady and Grady on their ATV. The collision sent Grady flying into a tree where he was knocked unconscious. Brady was thrown into a shallow creek at the bottom of an embankment. The ATV landed on top of him, pinning him face down in the mud and water. The three people in the truck that hit them, fled the scene, hoping that since no one had seen the crash, they would not be held responsible. Instead of stopping to help and free Brady, they left him struggling to breathe in the creek.
At school, Ron got a call that his son had been in a wreck and he needed to get to the hospital. A friend went to Shirley’s school and picked her up, telling her the the same. When both parents arrived at about the same time, they were ushered into a chapel where they waited until someone came and told them that Brady had died. He had been uninjured in the crash, but had drowned in the creek.
About 4 hours later, Police located the truck and occupants that had hit them. The two men each registered blood alcohol contents over twice the legal limit. It was estimated that, at the time of the crash, their BAC’s were 3 times the legal limit. Grady suffered a brain hematoma, a broken back, and a broken pelvis. He survived, but was hospitalized, unconscious, for weeks.
Ron and Shirley say the pain was unbearable. When they got home from the hospital, all of Brady’s things were around them – his toys, his books, his clothes. “We were suddenly a childless couple with all of our hopes and dreams destroyed.” Ron says he had coached other people’s children for years and had looked forward to the day when he would get to coach his own son. Even at 3, Brady had shown great form in hitting a baseball off of a tee. Ron had thought baseball would one day be Brady’s sport. But it was not to be. Brady’s 4th birthday was 3 months away and Shirley had spent hours preparing and planning for a family trip to Hawaii to celebrate it! But it was a trip Brady would never take.
Now, Ron and Shirley had to plan a funeral for their 3-year-old son. Ron says, “The funeral home didn’t have a casket for a 3-year-old. They don’t keep those in stock. Three-year-olds are not supposed to die.” Instead, they chose one of the two options available from a catalog. The visitation started at 4pm and visitors didn’t stop coming until midnight. Brady knew a lot of people.
“The life that we knew for 3 years, 9 months with Brady, was gone,” his parents say. Not only did they have to come to terms with this new reality, but they also had to endure three separate trials for the individuals involved in the wreck. Each one was convicted and sentenced, but each trial brought back the horrible memories of Brady’s death. “The pain will always be there,” they say. “We think about what grade Brady would be in at school, what activities he would be involved in, what sports he would be playing, girlfriends he would have, church, career choice, marriage, children, etc.”
Since his death, the community has joined together to give out 44 scholarships to high school seniors in Brady’s name. Thirty-two have been awarded at the school where Ron taught. Twelve more have been awarded at the school where Shirley and Grady taught. Those 12 were funded by Brady’s grandfather, Grady Anderson, in perpetuity, so that Brady would never be forgotten and to serve as a lasting legacy to his memory.