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Charlotte Amalie
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HomeNewsArchives'Don't Take Life for Granted,' Teen's Mourners Told

'Don't Take Life for Granted,' Teen's Mourners Told

June 11, 2004 – "Treat everyone with respect," Jahmalie Henry's aunt Ophelia "Nemmy" Williams-Jackson said Friday morning at his funeral.
"Violence begets violence and gets us nowhere," the Rev. Edward Thompson, pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Anglican Church, said in his homily, exhorting those in the congregation to "be careful how we interact with other people, be careful how we live our lives."
The words flowed out to a sea of pink and pale blue — clothing in Jahmalie's favorite colors worn by students and other mourners who filled the Frederiksted church to overflowing. Many students wore memorial shirts in those colors bearing the image of their classmate, who was shot and killed on June 1 in the Education Complex parking lot.
Jahmalie's family had asked that those attending the service, a celebration of the life of the 19-year-old student, "wear cheerful colors and not colors of mourning."
An estimated 1,500 persons filled the sanctuary main floor and balcony, gathered outside on the church grounds and stretched across the street. Parking places were hard to come by on surrounding streets.
In her eulogy, Williams-Jackson called Jahmalie "a charming young man" who was "very mannerly and respectful." He was in the William's Delight Head Start program and attended Evelyn Williams Elementary School and Arthur A. Richards Junior High, then spent a year at an alternative education school. He was completing his studies at Education Complex and would have received his vocational education certificate Friday night and his high school diploma on Monday.
He played in the school's lunchtime basketball league and on the football team, was a Lakers fan and dreamed of being a professional basketball player, she said. He took pride in his appearance, she said, wearing shirts and shoes that matched. "Yeah, that was him," youths in the congregation murmured in response.
Thompson said he is struggling personally to find reason in what happened. "What can we say when our society continues to lose young people who have never had a chance to blossom?" he asked. He urged the young people present to "practice wisdom and understanding."
Cherra Heyliger, a deacon at St. Paul's and godfather to Jahmalie, said that "there's tragedy in the Holy Cross" — the translation of the name St. Croix. "One of ours has again fallen."
Recalling Jahmalie's baptismal day, Heyliger said that "you can't only depend on the Education Department and the community to raise our children." But, calling the church "a weak link in the society," he said that it "has got to play a more vital role in the lives of children."
Words from Williams-Jackson may have found the most receptive ears. "Don't take life for granted," she told the young people present. "Treat everyone with respect, and live every day as if it was your last."
A 17-year-old Central High School student has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death, which was witnessed by hundreds of Complex students waiting to board school buses after classes had let out for the day. Three other young men face weapons charges.
School officials have urged Complex students to reject the response of retaliation. No uniformed police or other security personnel were in evidence at the church.
The service, which lasted about an hour and a half, included music by the Education Complex choir. Students served as pallbearers. Burial followed in Kingshill Cemetery.

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