09/20/06 — Barwicks lose son but neighbors won't let them lose crop

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Barwicks lose son but neighbors won't let them lose crop

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 20, 2006 1:53 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Fighting back tears, Leroy Blizzard stared at a white pickup truck in a farm driveway off Indian Springs Road.

It was Brad Barwick's truck -- the one he had driven to the firehouse hundreds of times, the one he used to haul loads of corn and tobacco for the family business.

Blizzard's voice trembled as he remembered the 24-year-old.

"I've seen him grow up from a little boy," he said.

Blizzard and the dozens of other friends and neighbors gathered at the Barwick family farm Tuesday were there to work and grieve. They had lost Brad in a truck crash the night before.

They would like to have stopped to reminisce and cry, but there wasn't time.

There was a crop to harvest.

The Barwicks had already lost enough, they decided. They weren't going to lose their crop, too.

Some took the day off from work. Others came over during their lunch hours and breaks.

Sweat began to run over the tears.

Mark McCollom has been a friend of the family for years. By 8:30 a.m., the time he got the news and headed to the house, dozens had already been working the farm.

"They've been at it all day," he said. "Everybody just pulled together. I've known them all my life. They've helped me on a personal level so much. This is just returning the favor."

Neighbors came together because Brad would have, McCollom said.

"These folks would do it for anybody, whether they know them or not," he said. "This is the community's way of showing how much they are loved."

Some showed how much they cared from behind a burner that had caught fire earlier this summer. They raced to get it running again to save another load of tobacco from burning in the fields -- a job Brad likely would have completed with his partner and best friend, they said -- his father, Lawrence.

"They were together 24/7," Blizzard said of the Barwick boys. "Brad was devoted to his family."

Jay Barnett agreed. He, too, felt the need to help bring in the crop.

"Tobacco still goes on," he said. "It doesn't wait. It could've happened at a worse time, but not much worse."

As the support group increased in number, Blizzard said most of those who showed up to work the farm had gotten help from the Barwicks at one time or another. It was "just the way things work out here," he said.

"I had a fire in my house years ago, and they helped me," he said. "Brad was that kind of boy. He would help anybody he could anyway he could."

In his time away from the farm, the young man had been a firefighter for the Indian Springs volunteer fire department. Blizzard was his chief.

"We've lost a very valuable man in the community," he said, again fighting back tears. "He was the kind of boy who would help day and night. He gave 100-plus percent to it. It's been an emotional day. It's just been a shock and a sad day for Indian Springs."

Ricky Brogden has worked side-by-side on the farm with Brad since he was a young boy. As he pulled his sunglasses down over his wet, red eyes, he talked about his friend.

"He was a young man and a smart man," he said. "It's a bad tragedy."

The harvest will continue, he said, and next year, the fields will grow full as they have since before Brad was born. That's the way he would have wanted it to be, Brogden said. But it still hurts.

"We're strong country boys," he said. "We'll get through it. But I'm sure going to miss him."