The death of a young man has touched the lives of people across religious and international borders. Those who knew Parker Bradford describe him as living life with gusto, as a youth who accepted people from all walks of life and who, as a high school administrator put it, lived "his faith in a way that the rest of us could only admire."
Through an international sports award named in his honor, many more youth in Europe and even North Africa will come to know the 18-year-old Latter-day Saint who was planning for his mission when he gave his life for a friend.
The new Parker Bradford Memorial Award for Sportsmanship, sponsored by the International School Sports Association across Europe, was announced on Sept. 22 during a memorial service held at The American School of Paris, where Parker graduated from high school last spring. In a hall crowded with some 500 people, Randall and Melissa Bradford, Parker's parents, were informed that beginning in March 2008, the award will be presented at the end of the league's annual basketball tournament to the "male basketball player best demonstrating those personal qualities held by the late Parker Bradford."
The league includes some two dozen international high schools throughout Europe and North Africa. During his years at The American School of Paris, Parker was a stand-out basketball and volleyball player. As part of the Parker Bradford Memorial Award, the school also retired Parker's basketball and volleyball jerseys, both with No. 8 — the first time in the school's 65-year history that any jersey has been retired.
"His funeral was a powerful outpouring of the Spirit," Sister Bradford told the Church News during a telephone conversation from Munich, Germany, where the Bradfords now live. (Brother Bradford works for the pharmaceutical company, Merck, and his family has lived in New York, Norway, France and Germany.) "People flew in from around the world."
Six different public gatherings have been held since Parker's death on July 21 in Rexburg, Idaho. On that day, a group of BYU-Idaho freshmen, including Parker, were swimming in a calm section of the Snake River by a bridge. As the activity came to a close, Parker and close friend Logan Gerratt from American Fork, Utah, stood in waist-deep water talking when Parker took a step back to reposition himself. Suddenly, a powerful current pulled him under.
After Logan lunged for his friend, both were dragged into powerful whirlpools under the bridge connecting a canal. Parker was able to free himself and, after gathering help, formed a human rescue chain, putting himself in the lead. He was again sucked in. Then, Logan suddenly was thrown free. Many believe Parker pushed his friend to safety before hitting his head. Both young men were found downstream, where CPR was administered. Logan survived. Parker was life-flighted to Pocatello, Idaho, where he died, surrounded by his parents and family. Parker has three surviving siblings: Claire (16), Dalton (11), and Luc (7). The Bradfords are members of the Munich 3rd Ward, Munich Germany Stake, where they moved following Parker's death.
Brother and Sister Bradford have been amazed and touched by the outpouring of love since their son's accident. Two memorial services were held on the campus of BYU-Idaho; his funeral was in Provo, Utah, where Parker was born in 1989; a gathering was held in his home ward in Paris; part of a Paris stake conference was in Parker's memory; and the memorial was held at the Paris school. In addition, a fully endowed music scholarship has been established in Parker's name at BYU-Idaho, to be awarded beginning 2008 to a percussion or jazz musician student each year. Parker was an avid drummer, especially on the African "Djembe" drum.
A tribute by the assistant head of The American School of Paris, Aaron Hubbard, was sent to the Church News. Mr. Hubbard lauded Parker's determination to live his faith despite being among few members of the Church in the area, especially at the school. "I would imagine that it is hard for a young person to live up to the high standards asked of them by the church. Parker did and did so with joy.... Parker's death was truly tragic made more so by the great goodness he had yet to share with the thousands of people he will now never meet.
"For those of us blessed enough to have known him, he is more alive than ever helping us to live life more joyously and more spiritually."
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