CORRECTION: A story and photo caption in Monday's issue about a memorial service for slain Shenandoah County teenager Brendon Manning Barker should have identified his mother as Janeen Johannsen and his stepfather as Jimmy Johannsen.
By M.K. Luther -- Daily Staff Writer
STRASBURG -- Family, friends and members of the community came together Saturday night at Strasburg High School turning an outpouring of grief over the sudden death of a Shenandoah teen into a lasting tribute and memorial.
Brendon Manning Barker, 16, a junior at Strasburg High School, was shot to death on Jan. 6, just eight days shy of his 17th birthday.
According to Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter, Barker had been invited to 189 Wakemans Grove Road in Edinburg by Sarah Bradley. Bradley's father, Jody Lynn Bradley, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting.
Grief-stricken Strasburg High School students gathered in the school's hallways before the ceremony to console one another, and then filled the old high school gymnasium to share memories of their classmate.
"Tonight, we come together to laugh, to cry, to remember the good times and the memories that Brendon left with us over the years as we got to know him," said Mike Dorman, former principal at Strasburg High School.
Barker's mother, Janeen Johannsen, asked Dorman to perform the tribute because of the respect Barker had for the principal.
Classmates recalled Barker's kindness, generosity and ability to make people laugh. Family members spoke of "Brendan's ability to shine" as they shared personal memories and stories about Barker.
Several of Barker's classmates choked back tears as they spoke during the ceremony, but all spoke of trying to honor Barker's life and memory.
"None of us knows what God has planned for us," Dorman said. "But I believe that no matter what happens there is something to be learned. And if there is one lesson to be learned from this, and to learn from Brendon, it is to cherish life and live it to the fullest."
Dorman said that over the course of his career he often had personal, confidential conversations with students that he never repeated afterward. Dorman decided at the tribute to impart to Barker's family some of what he had learned from the former student, speaking of Barker's love and appreciation for his mother and his relationship with his father.
"I know there were a lot of things left unsaid between you and Brendon," Dorman told Brendon's father, Gene Barker Jr. "You need to know when you leave here tonight that he loved you, and one day he will be able to tell you that himself."
Barker and his stepfather, Jimmy Johannsen, often worked on projects together, their most current project was building a motorcycle. Johannsen promised the audience, with the help of Barker's friends, he would complete it and a motorcycle with the license plate "Brendon's Ride" would be seen on Strasburg roads.
"I was very lucky to live with Brendon and very lucky to get to know him," Johannsen said. "Brendon was a wonderful young man who chose to live with us, a choice for which we are very grateful."
Mrs. Johannsen thanked the close-knit high school for their love and support during the past week, pointing out that Brendon had decided to stop being homeschooled to attend Strasburg High School.
"He chose to be here," Mrs. Johannsen said.
She also thanked the community for their donations and support to the family since Barker's death.
"Brendon was not just mine, he was the whole community's," Mrs. Johannsen said.
In addition to his mother, step-father and father, Barker is survived by a sister Ryan; brother-in-law Andre (Dre) Keyes; nephew Andre; grandmother Noel Wanless; paternal grandparents, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.
Contact M.K. Luther at firstname.lastname@example.org