BUFFALO – Amy Pilc has never been around Heyward Patterson, a jitney driver at the grocery store where she used to shop.
Ms. Pilc will observe Mr. Patterson, 67, assisting elderly customers with their shopping bags, seemingly delighted about such a small act. One day, she went to the market a few times and caught his grin on each trip.
His spirit, she said, made her think about the good things she could do in her life.
It was not until Mr. Patterson was killed in a racist massacre at the grocery store last week that Ms. Pilc learned that, like so many others in the Masten Park neighborhood of Buffalo’s East Side, she had a small personal connection to him: He was the goddaughter’s great-grandmother.
“That’s why I came,” Pilc, 46, said in an interview outside Patterson’s funeral at Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church on Friday morning. “It’s a small world here, and he doesn’t deserve it. None of them deserve it.”
Friday’s service was the first for 10 Blacks to come to the Jefferson Avenue, Tops supermarket, with their personal, routine duties – one shift, one dinner delivery, one shopping trip birthday cake within 3 years – ex-son – but their life ended together.
Mr. Patterson’s family asked reporters not to enter the service. But hundreds of visitors from across New York State came to Buffalo on Friday to mourn the death of their friend, a deacon at the State Tabernacle Catholic Church whose greeting at the entrance did brighten the day of the worshipers.
Deacon Patterson, as he was told, would take a few dollars to provide rides from Tops in Masten Park, a poorer area where many residents lack cars and have to rely on tight neighbours. for help. Nearly every day, he loads shopping bags into his Ford Fusion, drives customers home, and then repeats the trip, helping the next struggling neighbor. Even for those who never exchanged words with him, he was woven into the fabric of the community.
Clyde Haslam, 66, attended kindergarten with Mr Patterson and has been friends since: “He was a shining star in the midst of turmoil.
Mr Haslam added: “We have been through a lot. “But despite the ups and downs, he was always smiling. And so we have to smile here today.”
From comments: Buffalo shooting
Comment from the Times Opinion on the massacre at a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo.
- The Editorial Board of the Times: The Buffalo mass shooting is an extreme expression of a political worldview becoming more and more central to GOP’s identity.
- Jamelle Bouie: GOP politicians and conservative media figures didn’t come up with the idea of a “great alternative”, but they applied it.
- Gail Collins: To start seeing change, a simple battle is the best bet. Removed assault rifles. All rifles. The gun industry can diversify.
- Shaking: On the latest episode of her podcast, Kara Swisher hold a discussion about the role of internet platforms like 4chan, Facebook and Twitch in the attack.
To Mr. Patterson – Tenny or Tenny Boy to his family and friends – the Tops store in Masten Park is like a second ministry. He was killed in the store parking lot while he was performing another of his duties: packing groceries into someone else’s car.
It’s his way of earning a little money, but it also reflects a trait his loved ones say has guided him: a desire to help others. That trait is evident in his volunteer work at the church soup kitchen on Glenwood Avenue as well as when he shepherds market shoppers.
Darrell Dwayne Hicks, who met Mr Patterson about 25 years ago, said: “It was tragic, it happened while he was doing what he loved. “There can’t be any other way. He does not go out to do wrong. He is doing something for the people. “
The bond the two men share has been forged through decades of working in soup kitchens and at church services.
“It was like losing a brother,” Mr. Hicks said. “I can’t tell you how painful it is.”
Many of the mourners wore purple buttons with the nickname and portrait of Mr. Patterson underneath a gold crown. Over and over again, through teary eyes, they described him as a loving friend and a man of integrity.
“I know him through the community, spreading peace and love,” said Murray Holman, leader Buffalo’s Stop the Violence Coalition. “We have made food loaves. He is a good man. A very good man. ”
Some of Patterson’s dozens of distant relatives, a group that included a cousin’s godmother, were asked to sing a selection of gospel music during the ceremony.
Members of his immediate family, still struggling to bear the brunt of the loss, do not speak outside of church.
On Thursday, his ex-wife, Tirzah Patterson, spoke with the families of three other people who were killed in a fit of rage. For the youngest of his three children, 12-year-old Jaques Patterson, she said, adjusting to a world without a father – who gave him “whatever he asked for” – was so dire.
“Every day I had to pray and check in to make sure he wasn’t all over the place,” said Ms. Patterson, adding that her son had been struggling to eat and sleep all day. night. “His heart was broken.”
Jaques Patterson planned to share his own thoughts at the event on Thursday. But when his mother began to speak, he buried his face in his hands. And when she finished, the younger Mr. Patterson shook his head, cried, and fell on the chest of Father Al Sharpton, who hugged him and rubbed the back of his gray T-shirt.
“As a mother, what do I have to do to help him get through this,” said Ms. Patterson, who has been married to the deacon for 15 years. “They took his father.”
On Friday, the nagging feeling of heartbreak was still evident: A 70-year-old cousin stood around the corner from the cathedral’s tall red front door as other relatives stepped inside to see Mr. Patterson’s body.
The man, who declined to be named, said he couldn’t bear to see his lifeless loved one, when even talking about him was too much.
For David Wilson, 66, another cousin of Mr. Patterson, decades of memories come to mind as he leaves church. He had met Mr. Patterson a week before the attack, and Mr. Patterson encouraged him to stop by his church for mass.
Mr. Wilson said the two have ceased to be in regular contact in recent years. But when they were children, they often went back and forth with each other. Mr. Wilson recalled once spending an afternoon with Mr. Patterson and a group of other relatives.
Five dollars rose for the take. All Mr. Patterson had to do was sprint around the block in silk panties and a matching T-shirt and collect the money.
“And he did,” Mr. Wilson said. “That’s him: He just wanted to make people smile – and that spirit never left him.”
Lauren D’Avolio contribution report.