Organization honoring local teen with posthumous award 18 months after his death
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IDAHO FALLS – When Jamison and Stacy McPherson sent their sons off to school on that cold December morning in 2020, they had no idea that one of them would never return.
Eighteen-year-old Traeden and his younger brother, Carter, left their home in Paris, Idaho on Dec. 17 around 7:30 a.m. On the way, they were involved in a head-on collision that killed Traeden instantly.
A year and a half after his death, a local organization is recognizing Traeden with the Outstanding Citizen Award.
“I’m amazed that people keep thinking and caring (about him),” Jamison says of the award.
In a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com, Jamison recalled what happened the morning of the crash and why his son was such a beloved member of the community.
“The fact that it was so traumatic adds to the whole thing. All these little schools (in the Bear Lake Valley) knew him. That’s just how things work around here,” Jamison says.
Jamison got the devastating news shortly after the crash occurred at 7:47 a.m. The boys had left their home in a 1998 Honda Accord and were traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 89 when the driver of a Dodge Ram, who was headed southbound, moved into the northbound lane.
Idaho State Police reported the driver was trying to pass a vehicle in front of him and collided with Traeden’s vehicle. Traeden, who was behind the wheel, was taken by ambulance to Bear Lake Memorial Hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.
Jamison says the driver of the Dodge Ram, 20-year-old Preston Schei from Montpelier, was also killed, and the driver of a third vehicle sustained some injuries. ISP didn’t specify his condition, but Carter broke his femur.
“He (Carter) had a bad concussion (as well). He was pretty lucky, really,” Jamison explains. “Luckily, he doesn’t remember any of it.”
The crash apparently rendered Carter unconscious and when first responders arrived, Jamison says the only thing he could tell them was who was driving.
“All he remembers is a red flash. That was the color of the truck (that hit them),” Jamison says.
Carter was removed from the vehicle before Traeden and taken to the hospital.
Despite not having any memory of the incident, Jamison says it’s still been a struggle for Carter. There was a period of time when Traeden couldn’t drive because he had “gotten into some trouble” and Carter would drive him around. For whatever reason, Traeden was driving that day, which has likely caused Carter some grief.
Traeden passed away eight days before Christmas, leaving behind his mom, dad and five siblings. In the wake of the tragedy, Jamison says they’ve had their ups and downs as a family and “some days suck worse than others.”
It was particularly difficult for Stacy during the first few months.
“It was rough,” says Jamison. “It took her a couple of months. She functioned the best she could. The other kids were still there and we had to move on, but she didn’t go to the grocery store (or run other errands) for a couple of months.”
They’ve felt his presence on many occasions since his passing and there isn’t a day that goes by that they don’t think of him. Jamison recalls one time in particular when they heard Traeden’s favorite song play on the radio.
“His favorite song was ‘Give Heaven some Hell,’ by Hardy. The whole family got in the car (shortly after he died) and that song came on,” he says. “I had come to the (tire shop, where I work) to do some stuff for the funeral and on the way back, that was the first time I heard that song. Now, almost every time our family gets in the car to go somewhere, that song comes on.”
Traeden was a senior at Bear Lake High School at the time of his death. Jamison describes him as a kid who could walk into a room full of strangers and be best friends with them by the time he left.
He loved everybody and was a three-time participant in the state wrestling championship, says Jamison.
“He played baseball all three years (of high school). He played football his senior year for the first time. He was a 140-pound nose tackle. He wasn’t scared of anybody or anything. He lived life to the fullest every day,” Jamison says.
Though they had only moved to Paris three years prior, Jamison says Traeden “touched a lot of people in a big area,” which includes Paris, Montpelier, Bear Lake and surrounding communities.
Jamison gets teary-eyed as he recalls the community’s outpouring of support to him and his family in the weeks following the crash.
“There were tributes at the time that seemed like they never ended,” he remembers. “They started every wrestling match with an empty pair of shoes. The basketball team (made) bracelets (in his honor). The girl’s basketball team made socks with his picture on them. It had his wrestling weight, baseball and football number. Everybody in the school wore these socks on Tiki Tuesdays (where all the students wore Hawaiian shirts to school).”
Traeden’s legacy has continued to have an impact a year and a half after his death. Inspired by the lives he’s touched, Frank Vilt with the District 6 Juvenile Justice Council has been working to honor youth who do good things in the community. He created the Outstanding Citizen Award in Traeden’s honor.
He’s hoping to award it semi-annually to a deserving person.
The first award will be given to Traeden posthumously during an assembly at Bear Lake High School on May 23 at 3 p.m.
“The District 6 Juvenile Justice Council proudly honors Mr. Traeden McPherson as an outstanding example of good citizenship to others in the community. By demonstrating good conduct and kindness to others, obeying the laws and choosing the path of truth and justice, we, therefore, honor Traeden McPherson as an ambassador of citizenship,” the certificate says.
Jamison is planning to attend the award ceremony with his wife, who doesn’t know anything about it. He’s grateful his son’s life has touched so many and to be able to receive the award on his behalf.
“He was just such a good kid,” Jamison says.