Students, faculty and family donned turquoise and brown ribbons in memory of Justin Carr ’14 at a candlelight vigil in Feldman-Horn Plaza, Friday evening, and bid him goodbye Saturday morning at a funeral service at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena that drew more than 1,000 mourners.
Carr died suddenly during an after-school swim practice Feb. 22 of cardiomyopathy.
At the funeral service, Darrell Carr said that when his son was 4, he asked God to “help us achieve world peace.”
“What if right here, we start a world peace movement?” his father suggested. “Think about it. Let’s take this idea and run with in. Let’s do it in Justin’s memory.”
While he acknowledged with a laugh that his methods of spreading the word by making a sign might be “dated,” he told the younger people in attendance that with Twitter and other social media, anything is possible. This prompted many to post statuses on Facebook that read, “Justin Carr wants world peace.”
The student body was invited in an email from Father J. Young earlier in the week to “share a song, a story, a poem, a prayer” in Carr’s memory at the vigil, which was organized by Angie Haney ’14. A shrine was also set up in St. Saviour’s Chapel, where students and teachers left candles, flowers and other items to honor Carr.
Carr’s parents, Darrell and Susan Carr, thanked attendees for their support and emphasized their son’s love for his school, his culture and community.
Darrell Carr acknowledged how difficult the loss of his son has been in the last week. However, he said, “I know what Justin would say – stand up on your own two feet and be strong. Don’t let those turkeys get you down, sing a happy song.”
He sang “The Lord’s Prayer,” concluding the song by blowing a kiss up to the sky.
Carr’s mother added that her son always comforted her in hard situations, reminding her to “hang in there.”
“Try to live like Justin did,” she said. “Love this life, and try to live as cheerfully as you can.”
The Jazz Singers, with whom Carr sang, performed an a cappella rendition of The Impressions’ ‘It’s Alright.’
A number of Carr’s friends also sang. Zita Biosah ’14 and Tara Joshi ’14 sang “Spanish Lullaby,” which they performed at the spring Coffee House last year. They said Carr had complimented them on their singing, but told them they ended sharp. Joshi promised to stay in tune this time around.
Jensen McRae ’15 performed an original song she wrote after Carr’s death, and Molly Chapman ’14 and Nicole West ’14 sang Rihanna’s “Stay.”
Darrell Carr came to the mic a second time to provide context for his son’s active involvement in the Black Leadership Awareness and Culture Club. He said he raised his son to understand that “when we work together as brothers and sisters, we’re alright.”
Miles Williams ’14 and Arielle Winfield ’13, Carr’s co-leaders of BLACC stressed how talented a leader Carr was.
“It’s hard to know you’ve lost someone, who brought something great out of you,” Williams said.
Darrell Carr remembered his son’s excitement about bringing actor Samuel L. Jackson to speak at the Black History Month Assembly last month. He said that his son had even begun working on next year’s speaker, who he would not reveal in case the plans came to fruition.
Performing Arts department chair Rees Pugh said Carr was all about “getting us off our asses and getting us together.”
Pugh said Carr came in everyday after school to see if he needed help with his work designing sets, and said that Carr had plans to make a model of the new parking structure that is to be built across the street.
“I will never forget what your son means to all of us,” Pugh said, addressing Carr’s parents.
Carr’s friends shared anecdotes highlighting this devotion to those around him.
“He was always there for me whenever I needed him,” Kacey Wilson ’13 said. “It makes me so happy that other people knew him and got to love him.”
Chanell Thomas ’13, referring to Carr as her “little brother,” advised students to follow Carr’s desire to know and become friends with everyone. Thomas spoke of Carr’s ability to approach anyone on campus and talk to them as if he had always known them.
Director of Student Affairs Jordan Church spoke about Carr’s constant presence in his office, recalling a specific instance where Carr teased him about a poster in his office of Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali in black turtlenecks titled “The Greatest.” Church said Carr joked about adding a picture of himself in a black turtleneck at the end of his senior year so that he would not be forgotten after he left Harvard-Westlake.
“I think I will [add the picture],” Church said. “To me, he is one of the greatest.”
As the sun began to set, candles were distributed and lit as Carr’s 10th grade Choices and Challenges teachers, Head of Upper School Audrius Barzdukas and psychologist Dr. Sheila Siegel read the letter Carr wrote to himself that would have been sent to him during his senior year, an activity all Choices and Challenges students participate in.
Carr wrote that, while he was concerned about junior year, he felt better because he had a strong community behind him.
“Please know that mom and dad love you,” the letter concluded. “They really love you and we don’t give them enough credit.”
Before Carr’s family left the vigil early to attend a private rosary in Pasadena, his younger cousins – who nicknamed him “Juju” – released one brown balloon and one turquoise balloon into the sky. These were his favorite colors.
“Juju, we love you,” they said as they released the balloons.
In lieu of flowers, the Carr family requested that donations be made to the Justin Eugene Carr Memorial Fund, which will help to establish after school programs in the arts.
“I want to be able to give back to those less fortunate than me by creating an after school program, in neighborhoods where kids are not exposed to the visual and performing arts allowing the to have another outlet to be expressive,” Carr wrote in January for a summer program application.
Share a memory of Justin Carr ’14 on our memorial page ‘Remembering Justin Carr.’ The Chronicle will run an obituary celebrating Carr’s life and time at Harvard-Westlake in its March Issue.