By Michael Romain
Friday, May 24, 2013, Maywood — The family and friends of DaShamone “Dashawn” McCarty, the 19-year-old student-athlete struck down by a bullet more than a week ago, passed by his casket dazed and confused. They were wearing shirts and pants that were airbrushed with photos of him in life and blue Proviso East basketball jerseys and plain t-shirts — as if to gesture that the whole affair was too unreal, too illusory, to stain it with a color of such finality and void as black. In the first seven or eight rows of the packed sanctuary, the family of the young man they called “Spuddy” was arrayed in varying hues of white.
During the wake, those who arrived early sat quietly and watched a slide show that played on all three of the church’s projectors — photos of graduation; prom poses; hustle plays on the basketball court; casual moments with friends. The #11 basketball and football jerseys McCarty had worn during his playing days at Proviso East flanked the bier. The actual funeral service, scheduled for 11am, did not start until well after 11:15, because of the long, gasping, blank-eyed line of people who yearned to get a last look at the player whose coach at Dakota College said, “I was not privileged to coach Dashawn, I was blessed to coach Dashawn.”
McCarty’s uncle, Richard Flowers, said that the day he got the news of his nephew’s death, he was in Kentucky doing work. “When I read the article [about McCarty’s murder], there was an encrypted message he wanted me to share with you.” Flowers told the story of a young man who went to a guru for advice on how to become successful and was nearly drowned by the latter. “When that young man was underwater, what was he thinking about?” he asked the gathering. “Breathing. Not Playstation, not hooking up…” Spuddy wanted to succeed, Flowers indicated, like the young man underwater wanted to breathe.
It was this message that seemed to set the tone for the rest of those who spoke. McCarty’s basketball coach at Dakota College, Corey Fehringer, said that the Proviso East alumnus was “the hardest worker I’ve ever had.” He spoke of a young man who had only come to the college on a football scholarship, but after working out with the basketball team, had earned himself a scholarship in that sport, too; the young man who made an impression that lasted beyond the court and the field. “Spuddy made us believe in our faith, in being a great teammate and having great hearts.” Before the coach sat down, two of Spuddy’s teammates from Dakota stood and held up his #24 jersey for the people to see. “We will carry #24 in our hearts and soul,” Fehringer said.
Paris Burns, one of the young men who, like McCarty, were surrogate sons of Eugene and Charpele Jones, said, “Spuddy wasn’t a friend to me…he was my brother.” Burns, like McCarty, had also just finished his first year of college. “He was in North Dakota and I was in Wyoming.” During one of the last times Burns saw his brother, they had a conversation that reinforced McCarty’s character. “He said, ‘Bro, I don’t know care what I got to do, I’m going to make it.”
McCarty’s high school basketball coach, Donnie Boyce, reminisced about a young man he’d only known for about a year or so, but who had an indelible affect on his life. “I remember every conversation we ever had,” Boyce said. A Proviso East alumnus and former NBA player, Boyce said he passed up more lucrative opportunities when he took the job at his old school. “Spuddy was one of the first kids to let me know why I came back, instead…” said Boyce, who regretted that he didn’t realized how much McCarty touched him until it was too late. “He was the first kid who told me thank you.”