Who was Josh Crowley?
It has been almost a year since Joshua Crowley was killed by a hit-and-run driver and the people who loved him are still struggling to pick up the pieces.
“It’s been a real hard year,” Mildred Broad, Crowley’s maternal grandmother, said. “It’s really made a different person out of me. I just can’t seem to get over it.”
Broad lives in Franklin, N.C., along with Crowley’s half-brother Cody Walden, who is 17.
“Cody’s not doing good,” Broad said. “He’s been upset a lot. He’s been depressed...it’s just really broke his heart.”
Broad said Walden planned to go live with Crowley when he turned 18. She added that Cody absolutely loved Josh.
“He loved Josh and Josh loved him and they got together as much as they could,” Broad said.
It has been a difficult year for Josh Carter, Crowley’s fiancé, as well.
“(I) keep it off my mind. I’m always doing something, I’m never at home,” Carter said. “I don’t like sitting somewhere unless I’m with friends that we’re socializing, not talking about things that remind me of him.”
“I don’t like watching TV because that’s what we did all the time when he got off work and when I got off work, because we didn’t have enough money to do anything really, so we’d just sit there watching TV. That’s why I can’t stand watching TV (anymore),” he said.
He deals with the loss on his own and does not try to show it, he said.
“I like to deal with it on my own...because I don’t like crying in front of people. So my free time is basically when I’m in the car by myself,” Carter said. “That’s my time to blast the music, just clear my head and just cruise and that’s why I go through gas so much.”
Carter’s mom, Susan Watson said they do not know what he is going through, because they have never lost a love like that.
“I would say that (Carter’s) life kind of got derailed...he’s still finding his way,” Susan said.
“Josh’s death changed everybody,” Lisa Watson, Carter’s mom, said. “Anybody close to him, it just turned their world upside down.”
For friends and family, the grief is tempered by memories of times spent with Crowley.
“My favorite memory of Josh was the look on his face when we were out on the lake fishing, we’d just gotten our pontoon and Josh was out there in his little black Speedo and we were fishing and he was fishing on the back of it and he went to go swing his pole out to cast it out and it didn’t cast out, the whole pole went and we were just sitting still, but the motor was on and he was like ‘What do I do? Do I jump in?’ and I said, ‘No, don’t jump in! It’s just a pole!’ but the look on his face was priceless,” Lisa said.
For Susan, his presence was her favorite memory.
“I just liked having him around because he always made me laugh. Even when you were mad at him, he’d make you laugh,” Susan said.
“Mine would be the engagement and then our last beach trip together, when it was just me and him,” Carter said.
Crowley proposed to Carter on Nov. 9, 2009.
“That was a difficult time because we were separated and sneaking behind mom’s back and right after school, we had a little spot that we always met at in between me having to be home and getting out of school and one day he was just at the spot with all these flowers and popped the question,” Carter said.
They had planned to travel to New York and get married the week after Josh’s death because that was the beginning of spring break and they planned to elope. Carter’s parents did not know about their plans until after the fact.
Broad, Crowley’s grandmother, fondly remembered his birthday parties spent with her.
“He’d come stay with me or I could go get him and take him anywhere,” Broad said.
She said one of his favorite things to do when he visited was to climb Wayah Bald Lookout Tower.
“Every time he come up here, that’s the first place he wanted to go was the Wayah Bald,” Broad said.
Crowley was 23 at the time of his death. In his few years, however, he was able to touch many lives.
“He was kind of a split personality, it was kind of like who he was with,” Lisa said.
“He was very social, he knew how to fit in anywhere,” Carter added.
Susan remembered that he had friends from three years old to 80.
“He was a social bug, he fit in everywhere,” Lisa added.
Crowley’s dad died when he was five years old, his grandparents, Doris and Lester “J.R.” Hartis, obtained full custody of Crowley and raised him. The Hartis’ did not respond to a request for an interview.
“He was a good, little, sweet kid,” Broad remembered.
Lisa and Susan remembered him as being a well-mannered, funny, helpful child.
Carter said Crowley had a great relationship with his grandparents, though they had their moments of friction, like with most teenagers.
He attended Sun Valley High School, though he did not graduate. He later received his GED. Carter said he encouraged him to stay in school and graduate because Crowley regretted not graduating.
Crowley loved cars.
“He could pimp a ride,” Lisa said.
He would detail and clean cars and loved fast cars, something Broad remembers.
“I got him a little four-wheeler when he was probably about 13 years-old,” she recalled. “He loved to ride it up and down our driveway.”
Like most young men, Crowley had a wild side and found himself in trouble.
“He had a criminal record,” Lisa said. “On his wild hairs.”
At one point, Crowley went joy-riding in a car while his grandparents were sleeping, lost control and did some damage.
“He was a little speed devil, there ain’t no telling how many speeding tickets he had,” Lisa said.
Some of the more serious charges, Carter attributed to “wrong place, wrong time, wrong emotions.”
He was interested in being a phlebotomist for a while and was in training to be a certified nursing assistant for a time. At the time of his death he was working at the Subway in Wesley Chapel.
“He was just a good kid,” Broad said. “I miss him a lot.”
Broad misses being able to talk to Crowley.
“He’d cheer you up, you could call him and he’d cheer you up,” Broad said.
Broad and Walden, Crowley’s half-brother, have been supporting each other through grief.
“I talk to him all the time,” Broad said.
Members of the community have also come together to show their support. When Lisa, Susan and Carter gathered in front of the courthouse on the six-month anniversary of Crowley’s death total strangers came to them to offer their support, Lisa said.
A roadside memorial near the spot where Crowley died was filled with flowers and other memorials to him. A few Facebook pages have popped up in his memory.
“He’ll never be forgotten,” Lisa said.