Joshua Ryles’ family remembers him as a smart, loving and exuberant child who cared for everyone he met and enjoyed the outdoors.
The 3-year-old, born July 27, 2013, died in a tragic accident June 18. He jumped out of the back of a truck and was run over by the trailer it was towing. The incident, which happened late Sunday morning on a sod farm near Baker, is under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.
Joshua died at his favorite place, according to his mother.
"Josh loved the outdoors; he loved being outside. His favorite place in the world was his dad’s farm in Baker,” Jessica Johnpeer said. “He would go up there a lot and ride the four-wheeler with his dad (Chris) and ride the tractors.
“His dad had a water truck that he would water the grass with, and he loved to be on that and watch the water shoot out.”
According to Jessica, Joshua loved music and dancing.
“Not going to lie, rap music was his favorite,” Jessica said. “One of his favorite things to do was wear girls’ shoes. He had a pair of his sister’s gold boots that he called his dancing boots. From the time he was less than 2 years old, he would put on our shoes and walk around the house.”
Joshua had attended preschool at Noah’s Ark in Valparaiso, which he loved, according to his mother, since September 2016.
“He was one of those kids who was rambunctious and crazy and he never sat still, ever,” Jessica said. “A lot of kids (get into trouble) at 3, but even when he was doing something wrong and you’re trying to get on to him, he would just come over and he would giggle and say, ‘huggies, huggies,’ with his hands out, and he would hug you and you just couldn’t be mad at him.”
Jessica said that Joshua was a prankster and loved to play tricks on people. He had a 2-year-old brother, Ethan; a 7-year-old sister, McKenna; and a 13-year-old brother, Aden.
“He liked to annoy McKenna more than anything,” Jessica said.
Joshua loved animals almost as much as he loved people. Jessica said there was a dog that would regularly come by their apartment, and he would always beg his mother to let the dog inside.
“I had taken him to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Zoo in Crestview about a month ago, and he absolutely loved it,” Jessica said. “He loved seeing the animals but then, of course, being the little sweet lover that he is, about halfway into it, he started asking questions about why the animals were by themselves and if they were sad and if they missed their family.”
According to his parents, Joshua was always caring for other people. Jessica said that she fractured her arm in April and he stayed with his dad for six weeks during this time because of her injury.
“The whole time that he was gone, every time he would talk to me, he would say, ‘Is your arm feeling better?’” Jessica said.
“That was actually the last thing he said to me. He was always worried about other people.”
Joshua’s favorite things to eat were biscuits and French fries, according to Jessica; particularly the biscuits from Danny’s Fried Chicken in Niceville.
“When he would smile real big, his eyes would squint; he had one little dimple, and he had some huge feet,” Jessica said. “He wasn’t exactly coordinated with balls or anything, but that kid would wrestle. I’ve never met a kid as tough as him. He could knock his head, fall down, and he would get right back up.”
Joshua also liked to pretend, or “retend,” as he would call it, Jessica said.
And, according to his mother, Joshua had an active imagination.
“He was very smart — too smart for his own good,” she said.