It was the best day of his life, Baden Biddle had been saying.
It was also the last day of his life.
The Bainbridge 13-year-old was returning from a father-son basketball tournament with his dad when the car carrying the pair was hit by a suspected drunk driver. The crash, two days after Thanksgiving, killed both Baden and Troy Biddle, along with the boy’s uncle, Daryl Horn, and his cousin, Joseph Horn.
Hundreds of mourners packed the commons at Bainbridge High School Saturday to share stories, brave smiles and so many tears at a celebration of life service for Baden and Troy Biddle.
Todd Biddle, Troy’s older brother, told the standing-room-only crowd what many were thinking.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Troy and Baden were having a great day at the tournament. Playing for the first time was a dream come true for the youngster, and Baden was making three-point shots, Todd Biddle recalled, one after another, over the heads of his adult defenders.
Barry Hoonan, Baden’s teacher at Odyssey before he moved on to Woodward Middle School this year, recalled a seventh-grader with an aw-shucks smile that was a best buddy as well as a tender and supportive brother to his 10-year-old sister Devon.
“He captured our hearts because he was such a lovable goofball,” Hoonan said, and he recalled the school trip last year, when Baden and a friend’s canoe was caught in a current and started drifting away.
“The whole time, instead of panicking, he parroted a pirate” ‘Arrrr, we are in trouble, we are.’”
Baden was a gifted writer, Hoonan said, and he shared some of the boy’s sports writing from Odyssey’s student magazine, “Why Not?” Hoonan also read a biographical piece Baden wrote when the youngster recalled attending a birthday party for a friend as a 6-year-old.
Spencer, Baden wrote, pointed to a spider at the top of the slide and the pair decided to check it out.
On the climb to the top, Baden wrote, “I was sort of regretting my decision.”
Next came the fall, and his parents rushing to scoop him up and take him to the hospital.
“I remember getting a popsicle on the way. Like that was supposed to help,” Baden wrote.
He added that his arm was put in a cast, and people got to sign it, which was cool. But he also wrote about the big lesson the whole experience had taught him. “Spiders are just bugs. They’re not important.”
Father/coach, player/son: The commons was filled with many reminders of the pair’s devotion to athletics, and their devotion to each other and their family.
Five large tri-fold photo displays showcased dozens of photographs of father and son, of Baden’s basketball, baseball and football teams; a photograph of Baden with a Cal Bears sweater bearing the slogan, “Baby faced assassin”; a photo of Baden holding a Nate Thurmond bobblehead at a Golden State Warriors game; a photo from Autzen Stadium where Baden and Troy had watched their beloved Oregon Ducks play.
A basketball held a large bouquet of yellow and white flowers; at the end of the table, a framed photo of Troy, standing on the sidelines in a traditional arms crossed coach’s stance.
Four jerseys — Baden, Troy, Joe and Daryl — hung on the windows on the other side of the commons, all with the number 28.
Troy Biddle, 52, was an attorney who had just started a law firm earlier this year with two other lawyers.
Brandon Carroll, an attorney who had worked with him at three different law firms, said knowing Troy as an attorney was the least interesting thing about him.
He was not defined by his job, Carroll said.
He recalled a conversation about another lawyer who had passed away, and how every story told at his funeral was about his success as an attorney.
That was wonderful, he said, but he and Troy agreed it was also awful. Carroll recalled how Troy was always ducking out of work early, to catch a ferry to one of his son’s tournament, or baseball practice.
“Thank God he did all that,” he said. “Troy’s priorities in life were absolutely spot on.”
Follow his lead, Carroll told the crowd.
“Take care of your family; that’s what you have. At the end of the day, you want a room filled like this one is filled. You don’t want to hear stories about how well you did at the office,” he said.