Bright, sensitive brothers remembered with laughter, tears
Tacoma, Wash. • It was not about the grown-ups, it was about the little ones.
With those words, the memorial service for Charlie and Braden Powell moved from a week's worth of horror to a moment of tears, laughter and sweet memories of two bright, sensitive boys.
Braden was just 5 but already a "budding puzzle master," said Christie King, of Mel Korum YMCA, where he attended a preschool program.
"Braden had a sharp mind and big imagination" and was known for "telling exciting stories," she said.
He loved to tickle and be tickled, she said, and showered people with hugs and "I love you's.
"It was obvious that Braden loved his grandparents," King said. "He would wait at the window for his grandma to pick him up ... and he leapt into her waiting arms."
Braden's favorite color was orange, which is why he saved the orange-colored blocks for the top of any skyscraper he built, King said. And he was already becoming a "vehicle boy."
Charlie, 7, was a "little scientist" with a keen intellect and compassionate heart, said Tammy Oughton, his kindergarten teacher.
He loved bugs, seeking out insects and critters on field trips and picnics.
His grandparents said he kept a bug jar in his room at home.
"He had an appreciation for nature that I have never seen in someone so young," Oughton said. "On many occasions, he tried to sneak a worm or a caterpillar into the class."
Charlie loved to write, too, and authored a book about how to grow plants, designing a cover with a bar code, setting a release date and creating a marketing flier that included offering free apple seeds to the first 100 buyers, she said.
Oughton said Charlie last week told John Huson, his first-grade teacher at Emma L. Carson Elementary School in Puyallup, that he was getting a new student. That boy would look and sound an awful lot like himself, Charlie said.
But the new boy will be wearing glasses, he told his teacher.
And with that, Huson realized this was Charlie's way of letting him know he would soon be sporting glasses.
Huson has collected Charlie's school papers in a scrapbook for Chuck and Judy Cox, the grandparents with whom the boys lived before their deaths in a house fire set by their father last Sunday.
Annette Perry, a health assistant at Carson Elementary, said everyone there is taking Charlie's death hard.
"He was a very joyful spirit and you wanted to protect him and wrap him up in a hug because you knew his mom wasn't there," said Perry, who was among those who sought to bring "normalcy" to their far too tumultuous childhoods.
A video montage at the service showed just that: Two little boys dressed as their favorite Transformer characters at Halloween, visiting an arcade and riding a backhoe used on a construction project at their grandparents' home.
Just boys being boys, brothers being brothers.