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Obituary

Teen had heart, was happy

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published March 20, 2007


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Thomas Justin McPhee-Barry saw snow for the first time last year, on a ski trip to Salt Lake City. His uncle, a lifetime skier, gave him some pointers. Two hours after his first lesson, T.J. was the better skier.

"He was fearless," his uncle, Bruce Barry, said Monday. "He would take on any challenge."

T.J., a junior at East Lake High School, died after a car accident at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of East Lake Road and Lansbrook Parkway in Palm Harbor. He was 16.

He was a passenger in a 1998 Ford Mustang driven by his long-time friend and East Lake football teammate, Jeremy Eaton, 16, of Oldsmar. They were northbound on East Lake Road when they turned left onto Lansbrook Parkway into the path of a southbound 2004 Nissan Maxima driven by Robert Thurman, 24, of New Port Richey.

The two teens left McDonald's and may have been on their way to a park where they hang out, said T.J.'s uncle, Eric Carlson.

Jeremy, also an 11th-grader at East Lake High School and a defensive lineman on the football team, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center. He was listed in critical condition Sunday night but his condition was not released Monday.

Thurman was in stable condition at St. Joseph's Hospital on Monday. The extent of their injuries wasn't released.

A Clearwater native, T.J. grew up in Oldsmar, where his life revolved around football as a starting cornerback who also played quarterback. His team was the Atlanta Falcons. And he wanted to study sports medicine.

His family and coach called him an honor roll student, a good athlete and a leader.

"Whether it was with a little mischievous undertone or plain and simple happy, he always had a smile," said East Lake's football coach Bob Hudson.

Jeremy, who played youth football with T.J., had a "huge heart" and was in stable condition, Hudson said.

On their ski trip last year, T.J. and his Uncle Bruce rode a snowmobile. At one point they stopped on a mountain.

"Isn't it amazing, what God created, how beautiful it is?" Bruce Barry recalled T.J. saying.

T.J. is survived by his mother and stepfather, Rene and Bryan Barry, and his father, Thomas McPhee; two younger brothers, Tyler Barry, 7, and Peyton Barry, 2; a stepsister Brittney Barry, 18; and numerous grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Crisis counselors were at East Lake High School on Monday and a vigil was planned at the football field Monday night.

A public viewing will be held Thursday at Countryside Christian Center from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. with services to follow. Arrangements are being handled by Holloway Funeral Home in Oldsmar.

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at 727 445-4181 or tel-khoury@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 20, 2007, 07:05:51]


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