PLEASANT VALLEY – Seth Burton passed away Oct. 14, 1998 at the age of 17 as a victim of a vehicular accident. For the past nine years, Seth’s parents, Phil and Rebecca Burton, have told his story about the day he passed away.
“It was 21 years ago, Oct. 14 when two vehicles carrying members of Fairmont Senior’s cross country team collided head on,” Rebecca said. “Our son Seth Aaron Burton passed on, and three other young men were seriously injured, but most gratefully recovered.”
On Saturday, Rebecca relayed this story to more than 100 disc golf players who came to the Seth Burton Memorial Disc Golf Course in Morris Park to participate in the ninth annual tournament, as she has for the past several years. However, a few years into the annual tournament, she realized she had begun to run out of new information to say, so she came up with a new idea.
“Four years ago when I was coming to grips with the fact that Seth has been gone longer than here with us, I didn’t have much new to say,” Rebecca said. “So it came to me on a long run that I was to ask Seth’s friends to come to speak.”
So for the past five years of the tournament, that’s what the Burtons did, starting with some of the people who were also involved in the vehicle accident that caused Seth’s death. This year, the family brought in JC Nigh, an old friend of Seth’s with whom he participated in theater.
As Rebecca said prior to his speech, Nigh also lost a child — his 3-month-old daughter — allowing him to somewhat relate to Seth’s parents in that way.
“I was trying to think of ways that a 3-month-old little girl was like the 17-year-old kid that I knew and loved,” Nigh said. “When Julia came into the world, she just had this spark about her that brought the family together, and that’s how she was like Seth.”
Nigh went on to say that problems among his family went away with the birth of his daughter, and related that to Seth who he said was able to bring out that spirit in others as well.
“Seth was amazing – all of his friends truly loved him,” Nigh said. “When he left, we passed that love on to each other, and we stayed together and became a family, and I think that’s the most important thing that I took away from both of those two wonderful people.”
Following the memorial service in the morning, the disc golfers got their assigned spots and took to tee off at either the Seth Burton Memorial course or Orange Crush, which have both been ranked in the top 100 disc golf courses in the country by professional players.
The tournament is special this year because the top five players could be punching their tickets to the national competition, which takes place in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
The players will be playing today with the tournament expected to end around noon, and the Burtons both invited interested spectators to come watch the proceedings of the competition, which is free viewing.
“We’d like to invite the community out if they want to see some of the best disc golf in the country on some of the best courses in the country,” Phil said in a previous interview.
Still though, on Saturday morning, the players’ minds were on Seth Burton. Rebecca said the evolution of the tournament has helped her get through the sadness year after year.
“In those long days afterwards, the kids and us got through it,” Rebecca said. “It was JC’s hugs that helped me get through many emotions.”
To close to the memorial, Rebecca read a poem she held onto that she said Seth wrote shorty before his passing.
“‘Dear dad upstairs, please hear our prayers,’” Rebecca read. “‘If you want it to be, you can count on me. I’ll do it right, I won’t get in a fight, or be mean to others, my sisters and brothers. We thank you all, both big and small, I’ll try to do everything you want me to. Thanks, Seth.’”
For more information on the tournament, visit the Facebook page for Seth Burton memorial Disc Golf Complex.