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Vigil held for teen who died after fair violence


Published:   |   Updated: February 14, 2014 at 06:56 AM

TAMPA — Last fall, Andrew Joseph III tore his ACL and couldn't complete the season for the Brandon Ravens youth football team.

That didn't stop him from going to the practices and games to support his teammates and help the coaches.

“He had a passion for people,” said Alton Harrison, who coached the Brandon Ravens and had coached Joseph for six years. “He loved people. If you needed something, he would give it to you.”

On Thursday night, hundreds of family, friends, classmates and teammates gathered at the Brandon Ravens football field in Riverview to remember and celebrate Andrew's life and to grieve the death of the Riverview 14-year-old, who went by the nickmane “PeeWee.''

“I had my perfect pair -- one son, one daughter,” said Andrew's mother, Deanna Joseph. “And now my son is gone.”

Andrew died Feb. 7 as he tried to cross Interstate 4 on foot and was struck by a passing vehicle. About three hours before the crash, Joseph had been ejected from the Florida State Fair. Dozens were arrested that night, and 99 people were ejected for disorderly conduct.

Deanna Joseph remembered her son as a good boy who would take out the trash and mow the lawn and helped his younger sister with her homework.

A student at St. Stephen Catholic School, he dreamed of attending college. He had aspirations of becoming a shoe designer and had already created a logo.

The Brandon Ravens organized a prayer service during the memorial.

“I've never seen a kid like this,” said Damon Ratcliffe, athletic director for the Brandon Ravens. “He wasn't the biggest guy on the team, but he gave everything he had. He was an example for my younger kids. I wish I had 250 Andrew Joseph IIIs.”

Ratcliffe announced that the team will retire Joseph's No. 5.

Photos of Joseph's football career were displayed on the press box wall while his father, Andrew Joseph Jr., spoke about his son, whom he called “my best friend.'' One image was a father and son photo.

“Pee Wee was a good guy,” Andrew Joseph Jr. said. “He was so much for so many. Emotionally and spiritually he will live on forever.''

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Andrew was one of many people ejected from the fair after a number of young people were running through the fairgrounds in a violent practice known as wilding.

As Andrew Joseph Jr. spoke to the crowd, he said the family still has questions.

“We want the truth to come out,” Andrew Joseph Jr. said. “We're praying for the truth.”

Deanna Joseph thanked everyone for their support, which she said had nourished the family during its time of grief.

“Through prayer we will seek a resolution to this,” she said.

A funeral service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico. Burial will be in New Orleans. The family moved to Riverview from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

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