A Buffalo deacon who was shot to death while ferrying churchgoers to and from the Tops grocery store was laid to rest on Friday, the first of 10 funerals to be held since the hate-fueled massacre.
Mourners attended a private service for Heyward Patterson, 67, at the Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church in Buffalo before his burial at St. Matthew’s Cemetery, just a mile and a half away from where the church leader was killed Saturday afternoon, allegedly by white supremacist Payton Gendron.
“He was a real good person, always helping people with their groceries and giving them rides,” Viola Brown said outside the church, according to the Guardian.
Karla Warburton told the outlet Patterson was known for his singing abilities, heart and “fun-loving” attitude.
“It’s very sad, tragic, and for what purpose?” Warburton asked.
The Rev. Al Sharpton was originally scheduled to eulogize Patterson, but the National Action Network chief announced late Thursday that the family wanted the service to be private and asked the media not to attend.
Earlier Friday, a public, open-casket viewing before the funeral saw around 1,000 mourners come to pay their respects to Patterson, who was known for giving back to the community, feeding the homeless and helping people who couldn’t drive shop for groceries.
“A lot of them don’t have cars, no buses. He’s just taking them home back and forth. He had a family, has a beautiful son, and they snatched him from them,” Leonard Lane told WKYC.
“He loved his children, any man can see. And he loved God, that’s all that he wanted to do, help people.”
On Thursday, Patterson’s former wife of 15 years, Tirzah Patterson, and their son, Jake Patterson, 12, gathered outside the Antioch Baptist Church in Buffalo with Sharpton, attorney Ben Crump and other relatives of the victims to demand justice and express their sorrow.
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“Every day I have to pray and do a check-in with [my son] to make sure he’s not mentally all over the place. His heart is broken. He half-sleeps, he half-eats and as a mother, what am I supposed to do to help him get through this? I need a village to help me raise and be here for my son because he has no father,” Tirzah said through tears.
“They took his father, he will grow up fatherless. He has to live even after this and I have to pray that God gives me strength to raise him the best of my ability.”