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Son's tribute to mom inspires all

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 16. 2013 9:20PM

Pembroke basketball player Brad Rhoades with his father Frank following practice on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

PEMBROKE -- Forty-six years.

That's how old Kristen Rhoades was when she died Sunday, Feb. 27 in a snowmobile accident not far from her home in Epsom.

She was a wife and the mother of two teenagers who attend Pembroke Academy. She was taken away from them with no warning, no goodbyes.

Frank Rhoades, her husband, did his best to save her. He performed CPR on the snow-covered patch of land where Kristen landed after being thrown from her snowmobile.

The couple were leaving the home of friends in Allenstown after a day of riding when they set off around 9 p.m., headed to their home through nearby trails.

Kristen's snowmobile inexplicably accelerated before turning onto the trail, hitting the carport of the house across the street. She was thrown from her machine and died shortly after.

Frank Rhoades was left to tell his two children, Brittany and Brad, their mother was gone.

It was the hardest thing he ever did.

Forty-six points.

Brad Rhoades , a starter for the junior varsity basketball team at Pembroke, decided he was going to honor his mother by scoring 46 points in the team's final game.

It was two days after his mother died.

Kristen Rhoades was one of the team's biggest boosters. Dylan Gage, the team's point guard and one of Brad's closest friends, said he could hear her voice above all others. She also drove her son to school every day, sharing private, close moments that cemented an already strong bond.

Brad, a freshman, was told it was OK if he didn't play that night against Bishop Brady of Concord.

He thought about sitting out, but decided his mother would have wanted him to play.

So he played, and played like he never did before.

Brad didn't originally tell anyone other than his uncle of his plan, but he didn't need to. His teammates and coaches expected Brad, who already scored 40 points in an earlier game, to be emotional and inspired.

By halftime, Brad had 27 points. He was also spent, emotionally and physically.

He sat with his sister on the team's bench for part of the halftime intermission. They held each other and cried.

"She kept telling me 'You can do it, you can do it. Mom is here with you,'" Brad said.

Standing ovation

That moment seemed to be the emotional lift Brad needed.

He found a new energy at the start of the third quarter and quickly knocked down a 3-pointer. The gym was buzzing.

Brad, 14, had let his teammates and coaches in on his plan at halftime. Word spread through the stands.

He knocked down a 3 in front of his team's bench to give him 46 with about two minutes left in the quarter.

He sprinted toward his dad, who was standing by one of the doorways as he normally does, and leaped into his arms.

"He almost knocked me into the wall," Frank Rhoades said. "And then this place exploded. It was pretty special."

The officials stopped the game. Players on both teams started to clap. The crowd came to its collective feet and gave the kid and his dad a standing ovation. Brad hugged his teammates. More tears were shed.

Brad said he felt his mother's presence throughout the game.

"She was definitely right there beside me, all the way," Brad said.

Forty-six dollars.

John Clark is asking people to donate $46 toward the Rhoades Family College Fund. Clark is the athletic director at Plymouth State University, where Frank was a student.

Clark is one of many people in the Plymouth and Pembroke communities who Frank Rhoades said has reached out to his family. Brad said he can't thank his teammates and coaches enough for their support.

Clark said he was inspired after hearing the story of a son's tribute to his mother during the services for Kristen.

He sent out an e-mail blast about the fund to people who knew Frank from his days at Plymouth.

Donations to the Rhoades Family College Fund can be made through the Anheuser-Busch Employee Credit Union, 3 Mound Court, Suite 3A, Merrimack, NH, 03054-4412.

Pembroke Academy's varsity team opens the Division II tournament tonight at home against Kearsarge Regional of North Sutton. Brad will dress with the team as he normally does.

His dad will probably be standing by the door like he normally does.

And if you believe in a kid who can go out and score 46 points for his mother, then you'll believe Kristen Rhoades will be there as well.