A Dream Realized
It was supposed to be a regular Tuesday evening for the Gregory family.
The eldest daughter, Bayli, 23, was in Tyler for work. Thirteen-year-old Bryli was playing a basketball game in Arlington, where her father, Todd, was to come to pick her up at 5 p.m. But for the very first time, Todd, 50, missed his daughter’s basketball game.
He never did show up.
Todd’s wife Staci, a Joshua school teacher, kept calling Todd in distress. She only managed to receive a call from the sheriff’s department.
That’s when she knew something was wrong.
By 6:20 p.m. on Dec. 4, Staci had officers from the Sheriff’s office giving her the news at the driveway of their Burleson home.
Todd passed away in a car accident in Dallas that day.
“The girls are troopers, we’re holding up,” Staci said. “We have lots of people praying for us and coming back and visiting.”
About 500 people joined the family at Todd’s visitation and funeral.
Included on the list of well-wishers was 18-year-old senior at Nazarene Christian Academy, Austin Seals, who completed Todd’s unfulfilled wish that he had for years.
“To me, it was like a piece of my husband continuing on the journey,” Staci said. “It was like he [Todd] was getting to continue something he always had wanted to do.”
Todd was a life-long fan of the rodeo and was skillful with the ropes himself.
He visited the National Finals Rodeo, sometimes referred to as the “Super Bowl of Rodeo,” when it was held in Oklahoma. The championship moved to Las Vegas in 1985 and since then Todd never had the chance to go. Although, he was planning for the trip for a long time, according to his wife.
Seals was supportive and expressed kind and concerned words to the grieving family when he visited them. He also offered to take one of Todd’s special belt buckle to National Finals Rodeo.
Seals attends the same school as Todd’s daughter and their families know each other. However, Seals had never met Todd before.
“Both Austin[Seals] and Todd are true cowboys,” Staci said. “And I think that’s the cowboy way, which is to be selfless. It is to give to others.”
Todd won his first-ever belt buckle for team roping in 1999 at a local competition. Seals wore that same belt buckle to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas last week in honor of Todd.
“He [Todd] would be grateful to know that there’s someone out there that was willing to take care and look after his family, and try to make sure his family was emotionally being supported the way we have been through all of this,” Staci said.
Todd was a great provider for his family and was a responsible father, Staci said.
On the dirt field, Todd was the header for his team, responsible for roping the front of the cattle and steering it in the right direction.
“I didn’t personally know him. But, everyone I talked to and stories that I’ve heard says he [Todd] was a really nice man and a great father figure,” Seals said. “So, I was very honored to be able to do that and remember him.”
Seals is also interested in rodeo and practices on his roping skills between his school work and university preparations.
Seals’ grandparents gifted him the tickets to National Finals Rodeo, the 10-day annual event.
During the championship, prizes and titles are awarded to winners of different rodeo events, such as bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, steer roping, bull riding and barrel racing.
“It was amazing,” Seals said. “There’s no place like it; very crazy, but at the same time, it’s kind of a chill place.”
Seals said he is hopeful that he lived and enjoyed for Todd as well, while he was there.
“Here he is, an 18-year-old kid and I know he is an adult, in some ways, but,” said Seals’ mother Angie Catron. “Thinking of them [Gregorys] at that moment, it was just ... just very sweet.”
Seals returned the belt buckle along with some photographs to the Gregory household upon returning from Las Vegas.
“Austin is blessed with a tender heart and I love that,” Catron said. “It’s just a blessing and honor to be his mom.”