While I read Friday morning’s newspaper, the picture of a young man jumped out at me.
His name, Johnny Ray Clark, rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it.
Still, I was intrigued because this man was only 22, and his photo was on the obituary page.
I couldn’t help but wonder how he had died. Did he have a disease? Was he in an automobile accident? Or was he the unfortunate victim of an assailant?
As it turned out, I would get an answer to those questions very quickly. When I got to my office and opened my email, I found a message that had been sent late the night before from Trina Charles-Yeandle. It said:
“As I type this note, my heart bleeds with sadness and grief. On Tuesday, 8th, around 2 a.m. Johnny Clark, a wonderful kid and student, one of the most resilient persons I have ever had the privilege of meeting, was shot and killed in Fort Worth.
“Mr. Sanders, I wanted to let you know of this because you were the speaker during Johnny’s 8th grade ceremony at Riverside Middle School in Fort Worth. Johnny was always a happy kid and smiling at all adversities he ever faced in life. On that day, in the spring of 2006, he was the happiest I had ever seen him as he stood proudly to have his picture taken with you, full of hopes to go to high school and eventually college, and on to a life of success.
“I was Johnny’s counselor at Riverside Middle, and I transferred to Carter Riverside and continued on to follow Johnny’s steps as he graduated from Carter in 2010. The last I knew from Johnny, he was attending UT-Arlington. I did not hear from him for about a year until this Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, a former teacher from Carter called me and told me about the sad news: Johnny was shot and didn’t make it on the way to the hospital. …
“I am attaching some pictures; I know Johnny would have liked to share them with you.”
The photos indeed showed a proud young man holding a large trophy and the promotion certificate he had received that day.
Yeandle, in her message, included information on the funeral service, which was set for 1 p.m. Saturday. It was a service I felt compelled to attend because even though I had not seen Johnny since that day in 2006, I felt connected to him.
The church was packed, filled in part with Johnny’s classmates and teachers from Carter Riverside.
It was obvious that he had touched a lot of people in his too-short life. He was a football player who wore No. 22 at Carter Riverside, and educators talked about how personable and outgoing he was as a student.
Many of those who knew him described him the way his mother did.
“He was funny and very smart,” said his mom, Brenda Lundy. “He had a soft, good heart and tried to help people. He was an awesome, awesome kid.”
She added, “My baby didn’t deserve this.”
A police spokesman said Johnny had “multiple gunshot wounds.” A 21-year-year-old suspect — reportedly the brother of Johnny’s ex-girlfriend — is in custody in connection with the shooting. He was killed, some say, based on some things the ex-girlfriend told him.
No, Johnny didn’t deserve this. No one does.
In college, Johnny studied mass communications and theater arts, and it’s a shame that this young man was shot down before he could begin to realize his dreams.
Last Friday morning I had no plans for a funeral on Saturday. But …
You never know how you may touch someone’s life, or how they may one day touch yours — even in death.