Brandon Bakke, an 11-year-old from Fargo, North Dakota, spent his summer mowing lawns to raise money to purchase a gravestone for his biological father, whom he never met.

After talking to his adoptive mother about his biological family earlier this year, Brandon wanted to see if he could find his father, Terrence. He and his adoptive mother, Brandy, took to social media.

This June, Brandon and Brandy found Terrence’s sister, who told them that Terrence had passed away in Chicago last year. She also mentioned that Terrence’s grave was unmarked because the family could not afford a monument. Brandon was devastated and decided to buy Terrence a gravestone.

“I don’t think anyone should go unknown,” Brandon said. “I felt like I should do this for him, and that he’d be proud of me.”

In addition to mowing lawns, Brandon also sold lemonade. Brandon originally planned to use that money to buy a hoverboard but when he told Brandy he wanted to buy a grave marker she told him it would cost much more than the $175 he had saved. Brandon then said, “I’ll do what I have to do.”

As he continued doing yard work, Brandon contacted Dakota Monument, a cemetery memorial company in South Fargo, and told them about his situation. He began working with the company to design the monument, which he wanted to personalize to show Terrence’s generous nature.

Brandon and Brandy went to Dakota Memorial on Sept. 27 to see the finished stone with the $325 he had saved in hand.

“Oh my goodness, I was a mess,” Brandy said when recalling when she first saw the stone. “I knew it was so important to him. And to see his creation, I bawled my eyes out.”

Dakota Monument decided to donate the gravestone to them and to use Brandon’s money to set up a fund to help families who need assistance paying for memorials. Brandon will continue to mow lawns and donate money to this fund.

The Bakke family plans to travel to Chicago to place the stone on Terrence’s grave. Brandon is happy that he is honoring his father’s memory.

“I think he’s looking down and saying, ‘That’s my boy,’” Brandon said.




Elizabeth is from southern West Virginia. She graduated with her Bachelor's from Franciscan University. She enjoys reading, hiking, dancing, and attempting to play the piano correctly. A writer since childhood, she hopes to help the world through her words.