A family of Utah Jazz fans got a surprise Christmas gift from their late father six months after his death

by Aaron Falk

Vickie Bolton searched through the bedroom, looking for some of her husband’s old T-shirts. In the closet of her Cedar City home, tucked away in the back corner and hidden under some other items, she found a surprise: five Donovan Mitchell jerseys, Christmas gifts from her husband to their five children.

She wept.

David Bolton was nearing the end of a 17-mile hike in Coyote Gulch on June 26, 2018, when he collapsed. The 50-year-old and a group of Boy Scouts, including the Bolton’s youngest son, Jacob, were less than half a mile from their vehicles. The medical examiner listed heat stroke as the probable cause for his death.

The memories and emotions have hit Vickie hard at different moments in the months since. Birthdays. Holidays. The day her son made the sophomore basketball team. The day in September when she found the Utah Jazz jerseys hidden at the bottom of the closet.

David loved the Jazz.

“He was a huge fan,” his wife said.

When the team made the NBA Finals in the 1990s, he ran down the street in front of their house with a Jazz flag in one hand and his newborn daughter in the other.

“He was screaming and she was screaming because she didn’t know what her dad was doing,” Vickie said. “He was just so happy.”

He flew a Utah Jazz flag outside during games. In the summer, he mowed “JAZZ” into his lawn. And when he wanted to surprise his basketball-loving children for Christmas, he bought the five Mitchell jerseys and stashed them away.

“I was having a friend make the kids quilts out of their dad’s shirts,” Vickisaid. “I probably wouldn’t have found them otherwise. They were tucked away. He hid them well.”

Vickie kept them hidden for the next three months. Then, on Christmas morning, the Bolton children opened their gifts.

“It was emotional,” their son, Jared, said. “I had no idea.”

“It was a true present from their dad,” Vickie said.

The next gift the children opened was from their mother: tickets to a Utah Jazz game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Friday night, Vickie and her children sat courtside at Vivint Smart Home Arena and watched their favorite players warm up. Then they cheered on the Jazz in a win over the Lakers, all the while wearing the jerseys their father bought for them.

“He’s got to be jealous right now,” Vickie said, smiling. “I’ve felt him the whole way here.”

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