ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- A young man from Middleburg who received his high school diploma during a special ceremony in the hospital earlier this month died on Tuesday from a rare brain disease.
Daniel Hopkins, 21, was diagnosed nearly ten years ago with neuro-degeneration brain iron accumulation. He attended high school in MIddleburg until last December and this year was homebound with a teacher helping him meet the exceptional education requirements for a certificate of completion.
Shelly Brannen says she was at her son's side when he died early Tuesday morning at her sister's home in Orange Park.
"I think that is what gives me more peace of mind, I was here. Like my mom said you brought him in and you were here when he went out. So that gives me peace," said Brannen who was busy on Wednesday making funeral arrangements.
She is planning a service locally with Daniel to be buried in Pennsylvania.
Brannen says her son lived longer than doctors expected and is thankful she had 21 years with him. She looks back on a son who touched so many lives and faced challenges with a smile and humor.
"We started thinking back, we remember when he use to call the pretty girls, hotties," said Brannen who has two other teenage children.