Keeping His Memory Alive
by Jane Kendall
Photos provided by Cooka Garrett Sells
Monday, August 7, 2017, started out as just another ordinary day for Cooka Garrett Sells. She worked from home for a few hours and then took a break to run to the dollar store. Her cell phone began to ring in her purse. The news was every mother’s worst nightmare. Her son had been found unresponsive in his home. Twenty-three-year-old Frank Richardson Sells III was pronounced dead at the scene. How could this be? Cooka had just spoken on the phone with him the night before, and everything seemed fine.
Richardson, as he was called by everyone, spent his early years in Greenwood, SC, with his mom, dad and younger sister, Anna. He was very close to his immediate family, as well as his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. When his parents divorced, he moved to Greenville, NC, with Cooka and Anna and attended junior and senior high school there. Richardson was passionate about everything he did. He loved the outdoors, spending time golfing, hunting and fishing. He was a natural athlete and excelled in several sports. After graduation in 2012, he took a year off to figure out where he wanted to direct his future career. During that year he held part-time jobs and met new friends, who introduced him to the world of opioids and street suppliers. After a few months, the thrill wore off. Richardson began exhibiting angry and unhappy behavior, which was the exact opposite of his usual cheerful, upbeat self. He reached out to Cooka for help. She took him to a local treatment center for ongoing services and support.
Once he turned himself around, Richardson moved back to Greenwood to start anew. He was committed to becoming an exceptional asset to his community. He became a volunteer fireman with the Northwest Volunteer Fire Department in Greenwood and quickly endeared himself to his co-workers. He enrolled in the engineering program at Piedmont Technical College and did very well. He also worked several part-time jobs. After graduation in 2016, he accepted a full-time position at Burton Center, an organization dedicated to serving individuals with special needs and their families. Richardson was by all outward observations doing well emotionally and physically. His new, drug-free life was finally launching.
A serious fall from a roof in 2017 sent Richardson into a downward spiral again. He sustained severe fractures to both wrists, which required surgery. Opioids were prescribed for pain relief. Richardson was hooked again just like that. A few months later he purchased some tainted street opioids, which were the cause of his untimely demise. He had no idea they were tainted.
“We should not focus on why this happened, but focus on what can we do to help others.”
Such a hole was left in Cooka’s heart. She didn’t know how she was going to bear life without her sweet son. At Richardson’s funeral service, Pastor Jeff Lethco, of Northside Baptist Church in Greenwood, gave a touching sermon. He said: “We should not focus on why this happened, but focus on what can we do to help others.” These words deeply moved Cooka. Following a period of intense grief and healing, Cooka and her sister, Nancy, came up with the idea of Richardson’s Angels in February of this year. They decided to make angels using local oyster shells, wire and pearls and sell them to bring joy to others. They designed three different angel personalities: The perfect angel with the perfect halo; the getting-there angel with the halo tilted to one side; and the trying-really-really-hard angel with the halo hanging from its arm. They also designed a cross made from oyster shells.
Next they chose three agencies in honor of Richardson to be beneficiaries of the profits from the sale of these angels:
• National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) program helps volunteer firefighters when a disaster happens to them.
• Lock Your Meds® campaign is a prescription drug abuse prevention awareness campaign, with a mission of keeping kids safe, healthy and drug free.
• Pitt County Schools Educational Foundation Scholarship, a community college scholarship in honor of Frank Richardson Sells III.
Cooka and Nancy have designed a website to sell Richardson’s Angels. Cooka reflects: “As a parent and a mother, you never think this could happen in your family. But it can. It does not matter who you are, or where you are from. I wish every single day I was more aware of what was going on with my son. Life can be short. Always keep your arms wrapped around your family and your loved ones. I love Richardson and will miss him always.
Cooka’s Lowcountry Connection: Her family owns Lowcountry Produce, where she can be found working on many days.
Cooka’s Greatest Supports: Family and friends
Words to Live By: Sleep in peace tonight. God is granting you a better tomorrow.
Richardson’s Angels: www.richardsonsangels.com
National Volunteer Fire Council: www.nvfc.org
Lock Your Meds: www.lockyourmeds.org