Billie Jo Bratton lived for her three sons.
The close-knit family of four spent as much time together as they could, whether on family outings or simply enjoying quiet time at home, according to her 15-year-old son, John Bratton Jr.
"Even eating dinner with her was fun," John said. "I wish my mom was still here, because she was a wonderful person. ... She was a good mom."
Billie Jo Bratton, 34, was fatally beaten inside her home at 220 S. West St. Sunday, allegedly by live-in boyfriend Jermaine Stanford Taylor, York City Police said. Taylor, 23, remains in county prison without bail, charged with homicide.
Small-town girl: "We never thought this would happen to our family," said the victim's mother, Ruth Merrell of York. "She just wanted to be with her kids and have a life. ... We were raised in a little town where you didn't have to lock your doors at night."
Billie Jo Bratton grew up in Philipsburg, Centre County, her mother said, and lived in York off and on for about eight years.
A certified nurse's aide, she worked in private nursing homes.
"She was a people-person, and she loved to work with the elderly," Merrell said. "She was so kindhearted. ... She wore her heart on her sleeve, and she was too trusting with men. That was her downfall."
Nurtured 'strays': Merrell said her daughter "loved to take in strays, no matter if it was people or animals."
When she wasn't working, Billie Jo Bratton spent time with her boys, according to John, who is her middle son. She also is survived by 16-year-old Dale Rinehart and 9-year-old Hunter Rinehart.
"She was always there for us," John said, adding he's trying to find comfort in "the memories I have of her."
Many of those good memories involve her rounding up the boys and taking them fishing — especially at night, John said.
"It was really cool," he said. "Usually moms are like, 'I don't want to touch worms.'"
Fishing family: But John said his mother not only didn't mind baiting hooks, she was excited when the fish were biting.
When one of the boys snagged one, she would yell, "Woo hoo!" he recalled.
Billie Jo Bratton was exposed early on to the joys of fishing, according to her mother, who said the whole family started going fishing together when Billie Jo was about 5 years old.
"We used to do that as a family thing," Merrell said, making the day a full-fledged outing by grilling out dinner and sleeping in an old van.
There for sons: John said he already misses nighttime fishing adventures with his mom.
"It's going to be hard growing up ... knowing my mom won't be there," he said. "We were super close."
John said he aches to simply "see her smile again."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.