BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been just over two weeks since the mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue. All 10 victims have been laid to rest.
Each and every one of them made an impact in the lives of their families as well as in the Buffalo community. Their loved ones are now making sure their deaths weren’t in vain.
“We will build a new Buffalo in the name of these 10,” said Rev. Al Sharpton.
Heyward Patterson was the first to be buried. A deacon at Tabernacle Church of God, loved ones said he was a good friend to the church and a good friend to his community. He often drove parishioners to Tops so they could provide for their families.
“He was truly called to do the work in the community, and he will be missed greatly,” said Patterson’s longtime friend, Lenny Lane.
Roberta Drury’s family called her “Robbie.” They said she couldn’t even walk a few steps without meeting a new friend. She moved to Buffalo from Cicero, a suburb outside of Syracuse, a decade ago to care for her brother who is battling leukemia.
“She was that light that shone through whatever darkness might have been present,” said Friar Nicholas Spano of Assumption Church in Syracuse.
Katherine Massey’s loved ones said she was a beautiful soul, and a fierce advocate for civil rights and Buffalo’s Black community. Kat, as friends called her, wrote a letter to the Buffalo News a year ago, calling for federal action against the growing gun violence that ultimately claimed her life.
“Words cannot express the pain and disbelief of how I’ll never see that smile or hear some of my favorite sayings,” said Massey’s nephew, Demetrius Massey. “You always hear that nobody is perfect and without flaws, but when the Lord made Kat, he made her an exception to his rule.”
The life of every party: that’s how Celestine Chaney’s family described their matriarch. They say they will remember her as a loved one, not a victim. Chaney survived three aneurysms and breast cancer. Hundreds wore pink to her celebration of life.
“The thing that I think we want to hold onto was her level of resilience, and resilience is not the ability to bounce back but to battle every day,” said Bishop Troy Bronner.
Retired Buffalo Police Officer Aaron Salter is credited with saving lives the day of the shooting. Salter was working as a security guard at Tops; he fired at the gunman, allowing time for others to escape. His loved ones are calling him a hero.
“When all hell broke loose at Tops, Aaron Salter the policeman stepped into his assignment,” said retired Buffalo Police Deputy Commissioner Kimberly Beaty. “He never wavered. He never faltered.”
“Mother Pearl” is how friends and family referred to Pearl Young. Described as kindhearted, they said Young loved hugging, dancing and caring for everyone she could. Young devoted 40 years as a Sunday school teacher at Good Samaritan Church of God in Christ.
“She was a mother to a lot of people,” said her friend Ramona Dobbins. “Her wisdom and the knowledge and the words that Mother spoke – you can’t beat that.”
A man who always put his family first, Margus Morrison’s loved ones say he would do anything for his wife and seven children. The longtime bus aide for Buffalo Public Schools will be remembered for his laughter, his jokes and his love of sunglasses.
“He did the best he could. He worked as hard as he could; he did what he could for his kids,” said Rasha Thompson, the mother of three of Morrison’s children.
Andre Mackniel had been picking up a birthday cake for his three-year-old son when he was shot and killed. The devoted father loved to write poetry, play the guitar and spend time on the basketball court.
“I used to go to South Park High School, and everyone knew he was my older cousin because of my father,” said Joselyn Feeney. “The first thing they would say to me is ‘oh, your cousin’s the ball player – number one star player here.'”
Geraldine Talley was a mother figure to many. She would have turned 63-years-old on June 3. Her son, Mark Talley Jr. said she was an extrovert who loved having people over her house.
“For her, for all of her family members to come over and watch Lifetime movies, that’s her,” Talley Jr. said.
Ruth Whitfield was the final victim to be laid to rest – her celebration of life was this past Saturday. Her children said she loved fishing, camping and “trying her luck at the casino.” But they said, most importantly, she loved her children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and her husband of nearly seven decades.
Her son, Garnell Whitfield Jr. said he saw her the day before the shooting. He was building her a flower box for Mother’s Day.
“She was telling me to leave that box alone, she didn’t need that box, don’t bother that, go rest,” he said. “She wasn’t trying to grow seeds in that box – she had been tending her seeds all her life. She was taking are of us her whole life.”
Since the shooting, local and federal leaders have discussed what they believe needs to be done. Many are now calling for federal legislation against gun violence, as well as a way to monitor social media against hate speech.