Baden and Troy Biddle

Baden and Troy Biddle

Bainbridge mourns loss of father and son in highway crash

Celebration of Life service set for Saturday at BHS Commons

A sensitive soul, but a lovable goofball.

A well-respected attorney who was the get-it-done guy for numerous sports organizations on the island.

Those who knew, loved and admired Baden and Troy Biddle — and there were many, many on Bainbridge who did — were still struggling to make sense of the tragic car crash that killed the father and son on a San Pablo, California freeway two days after Thanksgiving.

Troy Biddle, 52, and his son Baden, 13, had been visiting relatives in northern California and were on their way back from an annual father-son basketball tournament when the Nissan sedan they were riding in was hit by a suspected drunk driver.

Troy’s brother-in-law, Daryl Horn, 50, and his son, Joseph, 14, also died in the crash. The driver of the car, Daryl’s 19-year-old son Jared Horn, was the only one in the Nissan who survived. The driver of the other vehicle was later arrested for felony hit-and-run and drunk driving, and has since been charged with four counts of murder.

A celebration of life memorial for Troy and Baden Biddle has been set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Bainbridge High School Commons, and the event is open to the public.

“It’s a devastating tragedy,” said Amin Neghabat, a coach with the Roots basketball program who coached alongside Troy Biddle and was a family friend.

“This was all obviously very tragic and very sudden,” he said.

Troy, an attorney with the law firm Carroll Biddle Bilanko, has lived with his wife Amanda Horn on Bainbridge since 2007, where they raised Baden and his younger sister Devon, 10, now an Odyssey fifth-grader. Troy was well-known across the island as a volunteer and coach for multiple youth sports organizations.

“He’s just a very loving, doting father,” Neghabat said.

“Troy was always there. You can’t always say that about fathers and their sons,” said Neghabat, who coached Baden in rec league basketball in fourth and fifth grade, and Baden played on the same team as Neghabat’s son, Cyrus, before joining Roots, where the two boys also played on the same team. “He was on the sidelines when I was coaching rec league; he never missed a tournament. We’d go to Port Angeles; he’d be there. We’d go to Mercer Island; he’d be there.”

Baden was a seventh-grader at Woodward Middle School, and Neghabat said his dad was one of those “old school coaches.”

“Just real salt-of-the-earth type stuff,” he said.

“He really loved his kids a ton and wanted the best for them,” he said.

Troy was a very direct, very transparent person with a great sense of humor, said Tim Duffy, who was a Little League coach with Troy and also served with him on the league’s board of directors.

“When you first meet him, you have to listen for that sense of humor. It was there in a big way,” Duffy said.

But his involvement in so many things, from coach to board member, wasn’t done with the aim of getting things done his way.

“Some people want to get involved because they want to take over everything. He wanted to make it a better experience for the kids, and not just Baden,” Duffy said.

“When it was clear we didn’t have enough support, Troy would be there whether it was his area or not,” he said. “What he was good at was recognizing a gap and stepping up and filling it. He didn’t have to be the head coach; he was just fine standing out in the field helping anyone who was head coach. It was never about, ‘Gosh, I’ll take control of something.’ It was always, ‘Let’s make things better for our kids.’”

Troy didn’t dwell on problems that came up, either.

“He was very much a realist; let’s move on and deal with this and move on to the next thing.”

That focus extended even into the secondary roles that Troy picked up over the years in Little League.

“He was a guy that would, on any given game or game day, he’d be trying to create energy in the dugout,” Duffy said, recalling the time when they coached the Marlins and the day at practice when uniforms were handed out. Troy showed up with a surprise.

“Troy went out and bought these orange-and-white stripped athletic socks. They were kind of goofy and kind of fun. He pulled them out and said, ‘This is what I’m talking about!’”

“With Troy, he just never stopped giving,” Duffy added. “There are a lot of parents, they drop their kids off at the field and come back a few hours later. That was never Troy. Troy was always there.

“He was a good man. We’re going to miss him,” Duffy said.

Baden was a great kid, Duffy said, and had been over to the Duffy home many times for sleepovers with Zach, his son who is the same age as Baden. They played on many teams together, including the all-star baseball team that went to the state championships the past three years.

“Baden has the most best friends across the island, [more] than any other kid,” Duffy said. “He was a great kid. He had an old soul, a very quite sense of humor.”

Barry Hoonan was Baden’s fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Odyssey.

With Odyssey having just three teachers and 75 kids, Hoonan came to know him as a second-grader.

“He was kind of the quiet comic,” Hoonan said.

Hoonan, a proud University of Washington graduate, recalled the time Baden wore a sweater from rival University of Oregon to school. (Troy had earned his bachelor’s degree there before getting a law degree at Willamette University, and father and son were big Ducks fans.)

When Hoonan first saw it he said: “That’ll be the last day you wear your Oregon sweatshirt in this classroom.”

The next day, the students came in ready for “selfie” photos for the theme, “Books I love.”

“Guess what he decided to wear? His University of Oregon sweater. That was Baden,” Hoonan laughed.

“He wouldn’t get in an argument with you, or come in and tease me. He was this quiet comic, quiet soul, in many regards. He was a lovable goofball.”

He recalled one photo he’d found, of Baden standing on a stool as one of the villagers in James Thurbers’ “The 13 Clocks,” during a drama-inspired class on literature.

The fifth-graders around him were roaring with laughter as Baden struck a pose — with his high-water pants skyward enough to show his high-top Nike sneakers.

Baden loved nonfiction books — “If you wanted to know the most poisonous snake in the world, you might ask him” — and was a best buddy to many.

“If we were partnering up, kids would want to be his buddy,” Hoonan said.

His love of sports came through in the conversations with his friends and his schoolwork.

“He was a person who was passionate about life and his sports was part of the way he exuded that passion,” Noonan said.

Baden was the sportswriter for the class magazine, and Hoonan recalled going through the old issues of “Why Not?” to prepare to speak at the memorial Saturday.

Hoonan found himself looking at the poetry issue of “Why Not?” when Baden was a sixth-grader.

“He wrote this sensitive, deliberative piece about how families endure in life and how families endure in death,” Hoonan recalled.

In it, Baden wrote about the passing of his grandmother.

“There’s a tendency to look at these very active boys and see the active, and think they don’t have the depth that is revealed in playing basketball. His poetry reveals a lot.”

Hoonan said it’s reflexive to think some boys are all about sports, and not much else. Baden was much more. A caring, quiet observer.

“He was a sensitive soul. He had a poetic sensibility to life. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re really watchful.”

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