It's been more than seven years since their 28-year-old son died as a result of a fall from a loft in his Barrows home.
Randy and Bonnie Powers will never forget their son, Fred, and neither will his friends, who will host their eighth annual dart tournament in his memory Nov. 28 at Paul Bunyan Bowl in Baxter. Funds raised help sponsor 10 or more Brainerd area middle school children to attend Timber Bay Camp each summer.
But Fred also lives on in four other people whose lives were saved as a result of Fred's gifts of life.
One April morning in 2002, Fred didn't show up for work at Gull Lake Glass, something that never happened, said his dad. His boss called his parents, who drove over to his cabin he almost was finished building on the Mississippi River. His mom rode along, mainly to give her son grief that he overslept. They found Fred unconscious on the floor. He had fallen from his bedroom loft. No one knows how long he had been on the floor, they said.
Fred was flown to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and doctors were optimistic at first, despite his extensive head injury. Fred had squeezed his mom's hand before going into surgery and doctors told them Fred would probably need a couple of months but he'd be able to return to work at that time. But Fred's health took a turn a few days later and he never recovered. He was pronounced brain dead a week after his fall on April 23, 2002.
Before Fred was taken off of life support, his friends drove from Brainerd, creating a long line through the waiting room to say goodbye, one at a time. A LifeSource representative approached Bonnie and Randy, asking if they'd be willing to donate Fred's organs. Randy remembered several years earlier that Fred had asked his dad if he was an organ donor. Randy told his son that he was, and Fred seemed interested in doing the same. But nothing else was spoken between them on the issue and his parents weren't sure if Fred had gone through and had "donor" listed on his driver's license.
Randy sent one of Fred's friends to the parking lot to retrieve Fred's wallet from Randy's truck. They were relieved when they turned Fred's license over and it read "donor."
"It took a huge pressure off of us," said Randy.
The LifeSource representative met with Fred's entire family in a separate room, before he was taken off life support. His parents were asked which organs they'd be willing to donate, going down the list of possibilities. Bonnie said at the time she had a difficult time thinking about donating her son's eyes, so she couldn't do it and said no. Now she wishes she would have said yes, that a stranger may now be able to see as a result of the donation.
"It was really hard but it was the best thing we could do," Bonnie said of donating Fred's organs.
"You're just in a fog," said Randy.
Fred's organs were sent to different parts of the country and the Powers family soon learned who benefited from the donations.
Fred's pancreas and kidney were given to a 53-year-old Ohio woman, his other kidney was given to a 47-year-old Massachusetts woman, his liver was given to a 60-year-old man from Indiana and his heart was transplanted into a 52-year-old man from South Dakota.
Letters filled with gratitude were received at LifeSource from Fred's recipients and they began arriving at the Powers home. The South Dakota farmer and husband who received Fred's heart was enthusiastic about meeting the Powers family so after several letters, Curt and his family came to Brainerd to meet them.
Curt told Randy and Bonnie they could feel Fred's heart beating inside his chest if they wanted. Bonnie was quick to remind him that it was his heart now.
The Powers have since visited Curt and his family in South Dakota and consider themselves to be good friends now. The family even attended Fred's younger sister Amy's wedding in 2004. When Curt's daughter got married, she sent the Powers a framed photograph of her dad walking her down the aisle, all made possible by Fred's generous gift.
"His heart couldn't have gone to a better man," said Bonnie. "Both he and his wife are such special people."
Randy and Bonnie couldn't afford to keep their house and continue to pay for Fred's cabin and property on the Mississippi River, so they sold their house in 2004 and built a house next door to Fred's cabin, which is used as Randy's shop. Fred's two cats still live there, too. A sign outside their home reads "Fred's Place."
"I always talk to him," said Bonnie. "I tell people I talk to him now more than I probably did before. I'm glad it was his decision to be an organ donor and we were able to honor his wishes."
Randy stressed that people need to list themselves as a donor on their driver's license, but they also need to let their family and friends know that, too. Many of Fred's friends later said they would now become organ donors because of Fred. LifeSource has been a support to the Powers family and they've attended several LifeSource events held for those affected by organ donation.
Fred's sister, Amy, and her husband, Dirk, in Plano, Texas, have 5-1/2-month-old twin girls, named Sydney and Elle, and a 2-1/2-year-old son, named after Fred, Aaron Fredric Powers Locke.
Amy donated a brick, not long after her brother died, in Fred's memory at the Texas Organ Donor Memorial Walkway in Dallas.
The brick simply reads: "Fred Powers, A Big Heart To Give."
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.