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After 15 years, the deaths of uncle Jerome Brown and brother Gus Mosby haunt and inspire Bernice Mosby.

Fifteen years later, a young woman weeps on a lonely road.

Even now, even after all of this time, the tears still come.

Bernice Mosby is grown now. She is 23, a determined young woman on her way to a fine life. She is a professional athlete herself, a rookie forward for the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, and there are places for her to go and things for her to do.

The private moments lead a person home, however, and so it was that two weeks ago, Mosby stood on a side road in Brooksville with her memories. It was here among the weeds and the wooden crosses, next to the still-ribboned telephone pole, where a car flipped out of control and her childhood was altered.

Standing there, it was as if she were a girl again. The tears ran down her cheeks, some of them for her brother Gus and some for her Uncle Jerome, some of them for what happened and some for what might have been.

They have been gone now for 15 years, Jerome Brown and Gus Mosby.

More than ever, Bernice Mosby is determined not to let them go.

"It still hits me sometimes,'' Mosby says quietly. "I think I'm pretty much over the pain, but I'll never forget it. If not for the impact these two people made on my life, I wouldn't be where I am today. I'll carry them with me forever.''

She was 8 years old when the man with the bad news came to her door. She doesn't remember his name, she doesn't remember his face. But she remembers the pain that ripped through the house on June 25, 1992. The man at the door told Gloria Brown, Mosby's mother and Jerome's sister, that there had been an accident and she had to come to the hospital.

For most of the day, Bernice remembers, she sat in a window and prayed and cried that everything would be all right. It wasn't. Her uncle, the famous football player, had died. Her brother, only 12, had, too.

"It didn't hit me like it hit other people because I was so young,'' Bernice said. "I just remember the pain of that whole day. It was overwhelming.

"For me, the hardest part came later when I would watch my mother. She had lost a son, and she was struggling, and because I was so young, I didn't know how to help her.''

"Prayer,'' Gloria Brown says. "That's the only thing that could help any of us.''

For a lot of people, Jerome Brown's personality seemed larger than the Brooksville city limits. He was the boisterous, humorous defensive tackle of the Eagles, the kid who refused to forget his hometown. Everyone liked Jerome, especially Gus, the 12-year-old nephew who walked in his footprints.

He would be a preacher by now, Bernice said. Everyone knew that Gus was going to be a preacher. He was smart and passionate, and when he and his brother were throwing rocks underneath the oak tree, he wouldn't let his sister take part.

As for Jerome? Who knows? Perhaps he would be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by now. Perhaps he would be goofing around on ESPN.

"I remember these NFL parties he used to have at my grandfather's house,'' Bernice said. "He would yell at me if I went out there, because I was too young. I remember asking some player what was in his cup, and he let me taste a little bit, and my uncle yelled at me. I got in trouble.''

Who knows how much of Bernice's personality was shaped by the loss of both of them? Bernice's older sister Jennifer, 24, remembers how much Bernice kept to herself, shooting baskets by herself. "I used to think she was a weirdo,'' Jennifer says, laughing.

Even now, Bernice keeps some things private. As the WNBA took its All-Star break two weeks ago, she came alone to the place where Jerome lost control of his Corvette. She didn't tell either Jennifer or their mother about her visit. People deal with tragedy however they can.

"I think part of the reason I struggled at times in college (she transferred from the University of Florida to Baylor before her final year) was that I didn't have anyone to talk to about it,'' Mosby said. "It just hung over me at that time in my life. The more I talk about it, the more comfortable I feel.''

For Mosby, much of this year has been a struggle. She was a dominant college player, the sixth overall pick in the draft. So far, however, she is averaging only 2.6 points.

"It's been up and down,'' Mosby said. "Other players tell me that everyone goes through this, but it has been an adjustment. But I'm determined. Some players are dominant in college and then when they get to the pros, they are mediocre and stay that way. I don't want to be mediocre.''

If Uncle Jerome had lived, she imagines what he might say to her.

"He would either be in the stands watching me or his son Dee," who plays in the Washington Nationals' system, Bernice said. "He would tell me to keep pushing. He would want me to have the same success he had.''

Perhaps, too, he would tell her to keep her memories close to her heart.

Inside there, an uncle and a brother live on.

Gary Shelton can be reached at (727) 893-8805.