“WAHOO! WELCOME TO THE WAHOOS STADIUM!” That’s what he’d always say.
Josh Parr’s wheelchair sat parked at the top of the stairs where he greeted all ticket holders with a high-five and a corny joke. He was the first person you saw when you entered Blue Wahoo ballpark.
“He was our front gate guy,” said his employer, Donna Kirby. “He was the guy who always shouted “WAHOO! WELCOME TO THE WAHOOS!”
“Josh was a people magnet,” said another friend. “He was made for this job.”
For the unbaptized, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos are a Minor League team. They’re a good ball club, consistently at the top of the Southern League.
This year, for example, the Wahoos outrank the Biloxi Shuckers, the Montgomery Biscuits, and the poor Mississippi Braves who are—God love them—sucking pond water.
Josh was an ardent Blue Wahoos fan. When he got a job at Blue Wahoos Stadium, it was like winning the lottery for him.
And he was good at his job.
“Not just anyone can be a greeter,” said Josh’s supervisor, Mike Fitzpatrick. “It takes real personality to do what he did. He was a master.”
“Everyone wanted their selfie with him,” said another coworker. “The fans all stood in line to talk to him.”
On game nights, there he’d be. Sitting at the gate. Rolling his chair to and fro. Dolling out belly laughs and hugs and corny jokes.
One coworker remembers: “The first time I heard him say, ‘WAHOO! WELCOME TO THE WAHOOS!’ I just smiled all over. Because he made this job really fun.”
Josh Aidan Parr. Twenty-one years young. He was born with cerebral palsy. His mother had addictions while he was in the womb, which interrupted his brain development and led to lifelong muscular difficulties.
His youth was not easy. Throughout boyhood, his mother was unstable. Times were hard. Money did not grow on trees. His mother died by suicide when he was a boy.
But somehow, Josh was the happiest kid anyone knew. People who have suffered less have crumbled. But somehow Josh Parr remained cheerful.
He had hundreds of friends. His faith was marrow deep. And whenever First Baptist of Cantonment unlocked the doors, he was there. He was in the choir. He helped in Sunday school. He sang for services. Sometimes, he even sang for games.
“Whenever he sang at our game,” said one coworker, “the crowd went wild, because he had an incredible voice.”
And, oh yeah, Josh prayed for people.
“Every Tuesday,” remembers one of his friends, “Josh’s grandmother would help him organize a phone tree from the church directory, and he’d call every person in church.”
Every single person.
Josh would call hundreds of church members and ask whether they needed prayer. And if anyone needed help, Josh would pray for them right there on the phone.
“I remember when he called us,” says one of Josh’s friends. “My husband answered the phone after we had just left the pediatrician, because my son had a softball sized lump on his neck.
“The pediatrician had just sent us to imaging for scans and blood tests, my husband and I were panicked, but Josh’s Tuesday prayer calmed us immediately. I will never forget when he prayed for us that day. He prayed for so many people when they needed it the most.”
Last Wednesday, Josh Parr was found in his bedroom. His grandmother found him lying on his bed, dressed in a Wahoos uniform. Ready for work. When his grandmother tried to wake him, Josh was unresponsive.
And the world lost a good man.
“I went to the top of the stairs that game,” said his supervisor, “and Josh wasn’t there. Our staff cried. I cried. Everyone cried. Our family suffered a loss. This ballpark is not the same without him.”
But make no mistake. Josh’s friends aren’t crying tears of sorrow. They are bittersweet tears of delectation.
Because a few days ago, Josh Parr did not die. Instead, Josh woke up in a new place. A holy place. He was no longer in a wheelchair. He was using his legs. He was whole. He wore his Wahoos uniform. And a patented smile.
And as he walked through the cumulus sea, trodding on gilded sidewalks, he reached the top of the stairs, much like the ballpark where he once worked.
There was someone there, waiting for him. Someone famous. A greeter of sorts.
“Wahoo,” said the greeter. “Welcome to Heaven.”
“Wahoo,” said Josh.