published Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Chattanooga Community Kitchen holds memorial service held for homeless who died this year

Soloist John Brandon sings "Amazing Grace" Friday morning to close the Winter Solstice ceremony for the homeless that died in the past year. Bob Leopold, seated left, and Charlie Hughes, back left, listen to the tribute.
Soloist John Brandon sings "Amazing Grace" Friday morning to close the Winter Solstice ceremony for the homeless that died in the past year. Bob Leopold, seated left, and Charlie Hughes, back left, listen to the tribute.
Photo by Tim Barber.

Homeless who died in 2012

* Earlene Baker

* Cherish Bradford

* Regina Brewer

* Gary Brown

* John Brownell

* Kerry Curtiz Doleberry

* Joel Dragg

* Robbie English

* Susan Genoe

* Kenneth Graham

* Stephen Harmon

* Denny Horvath

* Stephen Hurst

* Barbara Johnson

* Marshall Kirby

* Karen Laney

* Julie Dale Richie

* Donna Ogden

* Cynthia Purtee

* Doris Rankin

* Michael Reece

* Randall Lamar Rice

* Bill Ridley

* Diana Rickey

* Tony Sanford

* Sandra Smart

* Barbara Teffer

Source: Chattanooga Community Kitchen

The truth is the dead are soon forgotten, Brother Ron Fender, outreach case manager with the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, said at the kitchen's annual ceremony to honor people who died homeless during the year.

"We pause here for a moment to say their names and to offer a little prayer," he said. "But all too soon, they will flee from our memories."

The service is held each year on the winter solstice, the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year. It's also scheduled just days before Christmas, Fender said.

Father Bob Leopold prayed.

People can't understand the gospel fully until they've sat at the feet of the poor and listened to the poor teach it, Leopold said.

Charlie Hughes, the kitchen's executive director, challenged the crowd to reflect on how they live so that when they die, their lives can be celebrated.

Victoria Cope's eyes filled with tears while she spoke the names of those who had died.

"Whether you're homeless or not, you're still a human being. There's a little saint and sinner in all of us," she said.

Sam Poole knelt on one knee and watched as case worker Linda Pharr called the names of the dead while LaDonna Guffey rang a bell for each name called.

Poole said he came to the event because he had friends who died homeless.

"This is the place I come when I have nowhere else to go," he said after the service.

A few people in the audience mouthed the words to "Amazing Grace" as professional opera singer John Brandon sang it at the end of the service.

Fender told the audience those who died are in a better place.

"The homeless who died are not homeless today. They are in a home far more loving than here, with those who are far kinder than we have been."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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