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Community mourns death of teen, recalls memories during service at Strasburg High

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 mkluther@nvdaily.com

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1 Comment

Cathy C


When the knife of separation cleaves our heart, and sections this time in space from the rest, the pain comes in a heavy dark fog, a suffocating blanket. It wends its way along the hidden by-ways of the mind, and touches the empty spaces in the heart, where love or longing for love once resided, but is no more.

In a tick of a second, the loss plunks a chunk from the heart, and in that moment, the pain overwhelms us, and we feel it will never heal.

But time soothes the wound, for new love grows around it. It never completely disappears, it will be touched again, when a new space is created.

The spaces remain, regardless of the passing years, they become part of the heart, the part that never lets you forget the joy, and love and life that once filled them. Memories of love now fill the voids, although pain is mingled with joy.

Would life be better for not suffering loss? Never losing what we love? Without the empty spaces, how would we know fulfillment?

Life is strange, for love is never lost. Love never grows cold, it never dies. Love lives on, to warm the cold morning hours, and blooms in the snow like a boquet of flowers....

There is always another door that opens when one closes, and always a lesson to be learned from any tragedy. No one who leaves this earth ever really leaves for good...for having walked here once, we walk here always....
I wish all involved in this tragedy peace and forgiveness and healing someday......

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