Pierce and Preston Mobley established their future plans years ago — the brothers were going to be firefighters. They knew it as surely as they knew they were each other’s best friend.
“We were both chasing the same dream,” said Pierce, a junior tennis player at Wichita South. “When we’d hang out, we’d talk about firefighting. We’d watch videos of firefighters.”
While Pierce’s future still centers on being a firefighter, Preston died March 1 in what Haysville police ruled an accidental shooting by a close family friend. Preston was 21.
Preston’s death was a blow to the Mobley family.
“I can’t tell you how lonesome and heartbreaking this is,” said Mike, Pierce and Preston’s dad. “Unless you’ve lived through it, you have no idea what it’s like.”
Mike’s voice broke off into a cry. He paused to gain control.
“They were real close brothers,” he said. “I had two older brothers, and I didn’t hang out with them like Pierce and Preston hung out together. Preston would take Pierce with his girlfriend to the lake. They were just close.”
Pierce likened his relationship with Preston to one that might be shown in a movie — almost a fairytale bond.
“That’s what we were like,” Pierce said. “Hunting and fishing and playing basketball at the Y, spending all our time together.… I could list the activities I do, and they’d be the same as him. He had a great sense of humor. He knew when to crack a joke, he could take a joke. You could say anything to him. He didn’t hold grudges.
“He was such a great kid. I was so proud to call him my brother.”
Understandably, Pierce hasn’t let go of his brother. So little time has passed that the pain isn’t under the surface but an open wound.
His mother, Carol, recalled him telling her shortly after Preston’s death, “Don’t you ever let me hear you say you only have one son.”
The tears come often for the Mobleys, and “I love you” is a much more common phrase used by the three.
Pierce missed nine days of school after his brother’s death, and he has struggled to catch up academically.
But he hasn’t suffered alone. Although he often takes a drive to cry in private, he’s got a strong support system that goes beyond family.
“He’s still struggling with the grieving process,” South tennis coach Tom Grow said. “He’s lashed out a couple times from losing. I think he’s still really struggling with it, and I think he’s still coming to terms.… It’s very raw. It’s still so soon.”
Seeing the support that Pierce has received has been a blessing for his parents.
“I don’t know what Pierce would do with himself if he didn’t have quality social activities and all these sports to go to and these people to talk to and occupy his time,” Carol Mobley said. “I wanted to curl up in a ball.
“But after Preston died, I walk out in the room, and it’s packed with teenagers to support Pierce. It’s full of South High letter jackets. The baseball coach — Pierce doesn’t play baseball — he sent food. It’s been quite a community that Pierce has, with such a good support system going there.”
There’s the Titans’ football family, the tennis family, teachers and friends. Pierce didn’t play basketball this season, but the coaches were still there for him.
Pierce is involved in South’s Principal’s Advisory Council that meets on a monthly basis on how to improve South, and he’s one of two South students on the Superintendent’s Council that meets monthly with Wichita school district superintendent John Allison. He’s also one of the River Festival Schoonermates for South.
“He’s real involved in our Young Life group,” South principal Cara Ledy said. “The day after Preston passed away, he came up and went to lunch with one of our Young Life leaders. He’s trying to figure out why and how and make sense of things.”
Tennis has been especially vital for Pierce, giving him something to occupy his mind for several hours.
“That’s how I got stronger, playing for a little bit,” he said. “My coach, God bless him. We’ve had talks. He’s talked to me. He’s motivated me, given me confidence to build myself back up.”