A MOTHER'S PROMISE: Chiefs Super Bowl celebration for sons killed in crash
Kansas City Chiefs fans around the world are still celebrating the team's Super Bowl win earlier this month. For one mother with ties to the Ozarks, the victory meant more than just making history. It meant keeping a promise.
In a place that's often somber, Saturday, there was celebration.
"I promised my son when he was eight that, if the Chiefs ever won the Super Bowl, we would have a party. We are having a party," Deborah Payne said.
Deborah Payne flew more than 1,200 miles from her new home in Arizona to spend the day in Stone County with her sons, Dustin and Travis.
She promised that party to young Travis, and did not disappoint at the Union Ridge Cemetery near Clever.
"I made a promise and I’m keeping it. So we’re having a party at the cemetery," Payne said.
This isn't where she'd imagined the gathering, but where doesn't matter. It's who.
"Seventeen years ago, my kids were killed in a car accident," Payne said. "Travis was 16 and Dustin was 12."
The crash happened on December 14, 2002 between Hurley and Republic.
"It was just a horrible night," said the boys' cousin, Dozer Keithley.
Dozer said those brothers were best friends.
"I mean they were together all the time. I think God knew that and he took them together," Dozer said.
John Keithley, another cousin, said he and Travis shared a love for a team.
"Travis was a Chiefs fan as far as I can remember, up until the day he was in his accident," John said.
John said Travis always believed the Kansas City Chiefs could pull off the biggest win possible.
"He told me one time that they're going to win it and when they do, everybody's going to want to be a Chiefs fan. I can just imagine him now saying, 'Welcome to the Kingdom, everybody,'" John said.
Payne said, at one point, Travis was so taken by his team, he wanted to change his name legally.
"The only year Joe played for the Chiefs and he had to be Joe Montana," she said. "His clothes were all Chiefs, his bed was all Chiefs, he was just a Chiefs fan."
Now, Travis, and Dustin will be honorary fans forever. Family friends gave Payne certificates at the party Saturday, straight from the Chiefs organization, honoring both boys.
The certificates read: "The Kansas City Chiefs extend to you our deepest sympathy. They will forever remain part of the Chiefs Kingdom."
A group of loved ones, celebrating a Super Bowl victory, and lives cut short.
"Probably a party in two directions. One in Heaven and one here," Payne said.
A mother, fulfilling a promise.
"Gone but not forgotten," Deborah said.