Brian Browder would have graduated from Van High School in 2001, probably as a football and basketball star, most likely as an honor student.
Van's football team made the playoffs that year, said his father, Charlie Browder of Uneeda, Boone County. "They dedicated the season to him. With each touchdown, they pointed to heaven to recognize Brian." Brian died on June 10, 1996, the victim of an ATV accident. He was 12. He was buried in his blue and gold No. 32 football jersey. He wore the same number on the Van Grade School basketball team. "I had 32 in football," his father said. "That's why he wanted that number." Browder coached his son for 10 years on the Van Midget League Football Team. "He was one of the best I'd ever coached. He played linebacker and fullback. He was strong and muscular. He worked out with weights. He was never on a losing team. He lived it."
On the night before Brian died, his dad worked the midnight shift in the coal mine. When he got home, he looked in on his sleeping son, just like he always did. The next afternoon, he heard a call on the police scanner about a four-wheeler accident at Quinland Bridge. Brian was unconscious when he reached him. "I saw the last breath of life go out of him."
Brian's service at the Handley Funeral Home in Danville was one of the largest anyone can remember there, his father said. "He was one of the sweetest kids you'd ever meet, and that's not just my opinion. Anybody who knew him would say the same thing." The ATV belonged to Brian's girlfriend. "I had considered buying one for Brian. I read all I can about ATV regulations, about adults and kids getting killed on them. You think those things happen to somebody else. Any parent thinking of getting their child a four-wheeler had better think twice. "I'm hoping they will pass some legislation," he said. "I wish they would outlaw them. I don't want anyone else to go through this. Losing Brian has put us through six years of hell, every day." He finds some consolation in Brian's faith. He belonged to the Quinland Freewill Baptist Church and attended regularly. "The main thing is that he was a Christian. When I die, I know I can be with him for eternity." To contact staff writer Sandy Wells, use e-mail or call 348-5173.