LORAIN — The sun began to set, clouds rolled in and the breeze made it difficult to light candles.
But these candles weren’t being lit to be placed on a cake, and the occasion wasn’t joyous or set to mark the day someone came into the world.
Instead, the candles were held Wednesday as solemn faces marked the end of the life of 38-year-old Jimmie Holland Jr., Lorain’s seventh homicide victim of the year. Holland was shot and killed Monday.
Cheryl Towner, of Lorain, is comforted by friends and family during a vigil for her partner, Jimmie Holland Jr., on Aug. 31.
KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Enlarge
City officials weren’t present, but attendees said politicians and police can’t solve senseless violence. It’s time to stop seeking answers from the mayor or police, they said, and to start finding answers within.
Some of those present took a vow to show kindness to one another and to strangers in an effort to lift up a community, which as of late has found itself broken and angry.
How long the vow will stick no one knows, but heads nodded in agreement when it was said that Holland was the kind of man who showed kindness to others and they should too.
A handful of people milled around about 7 p.m. at Lexington Avenue and West Ninth Street, some sharing laughs while talking about Holland, others crying, each stepping up to embrace Holland’s partner of 16 years, Cheryl Towner, and their children.
Slowly more people arrived until about 50 people were in the intersection. At one point the sun peeked through the clouds and Holland’s stepdaughter, Tamerra Towner, said it was Holland there with them.
The group laughed, then became silent again. People came forward to share words and memories. Tamerra Towner described Holland as a kind, loving and caring man who was taken too soon from his family and friends.
Tamerra Towner, daughter of Cheryl Towner, of Lorain, speaks during a vigil to honor Jimmie Holland on Wednesday evening, Aug. 31.
KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Enlarge
“He taught me how to swim, ride a bike and tie my shoes,” Tamerra Towner said.
Judy Joseph said she didn’t know Holland as well as some of those present, but Holland knew her son, and he was too emotional to speak. Holland once fixed her computer as a teenager, Joseph said, and from that point he and her son were friends.
“Y’all pay attention,” Joseph said. “Every single one of you matters. You touch the lives of everyone around you. That’s all that matters. I don’t care where you’re from.”
Joseph then asked those present to be there for one another even after the shock they feel subsides. She said all of her interactions with the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Holland involved some kind of a joke.
“Keep the joke going, be good to one another, laugh and have a good time,” Joseph said. “Don’t hate one another. Make the hate stop.”
Dan “Smitty” Smith said when he opened the newspaper and read the news of Holland’s death he was shocked. Smith said the two played basketball in leagues for about two decades.
Their friendship was one based on a love of basketball. Smith said he got to know Holland beyond the game when they would drive together.
“Who couldn’t like the guy?” he said.
At one game in Cleveland, Smith said an opposing player intentionally knocked him over and in the process, Holland fell on top of Smith’s leg, breaking it.
Smith said it was the only time in his 20 years of playing basketball that he wanted to jump up and punch an opposing player, but Holland calmed the tension.
“JJ came to my rescue and said ‘Smitty I got your back, there ain’t going to be no problems here,’” Smith recalled. “That was the end of it. No one wanted to argue with this big guy. I never forgot him for that.”
Luis Nunez said Holland acted as a role model for him growing up in Lorain. Nunez said Holland was there for him when he started getting into trouble.
“My parents split up,” Nunez recalled. “I was going though some issues, and I would go over there for comfort, and I’d come home feeling blessed. He made me happy. He made me who I am today.”
Holland’s family members described the people accused of killing him as monsters, and they urged everyone who knew him to attend all court proceedings.
A funeral and viewing is planned for Holland at Dovin Funeral Home, 1110 Cooper Foster Park Road, Amherst, 4 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist with funeral expenses.
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