TAMPA — Deanna and Andrew Joseph Jr. had planned to spend Saturday celebrating.
It was the day of their eldest child's confirmation. Andrew Joseph III, 14, was to stand at the front of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico and affirm his faith to God as his family and friends watched.
Instead, they spent the day remembering the boy they called Peewee.
The eighth-grader at St. Stephen Catholic School was killed Friday night about 10:45 p.m. when he was struck by a car as he ran across Interstate 4 near U.S. 301, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Andrew Joseph III had been at the Florida State Fair with friends Friday night when he left for unknown reasons, his family said.
"He was trying to get across the highway for some reason," his father said. "Maybe he was trying to get to the store or something."
As he ran north, a sport utility vehicle driven by Jonathan M. Hatfield of Bartow struck him, troopers said. The 14-year-old died at the scene.
"I know it was an accident," said his mother, Deanna Joseph. "But he was a gift that was taken from us much too early."
Originally from New Orleans, the family moved to Riverview after Hurricane Katrina forced them to evacuate. In his new town, Andrew Joseph III took to sports, playing for the Brandon Ravens youth football league and running track and playing basketball at St. Stephen.
The family was waiting to hear whether he would be accepted to Tampa Catholic High School next year.
"He was an excellent student with straight A's and had a future in place for him," Andrew Joseph Jr. said. "But he always placed others first."
He would often take food out of the kitchen or old clothing from his closet and give it to friends in the neighborhood, his father said.
"He was the type of kid who advocated for the underdog."
St. Stephen Catholic Church dedicated Saturday's confirmation mass to his memory and a steady stream of family and friends filtered through the Josephs' Riverview home.
"As his parents, he has given us some peace that we did an excellent job raising him, knowing the impact he had on so many lives," Deanna Joseph said.
However, they lamented a future in which his 9-year-old sister, Deja, would have to grow up without him.
"She has to live now without a big brother," his father said. "Now all of that is gone."
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.