Hundreds gathered on the lawn at Washington-Lee High School on Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil to remember John Malvar, who died in a skateboarding accident on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old had been holding on to a truck while skateboarding, but fell and hit his head. He died from injuries sustained during that fall, which included significant head trauma and cardiac arrest.
At the student organized vigil, tables were set up around the perimeter with candles and ribbons for attendees. Students cried, hugged and comforted each other, while others passed around water jugs for donations to cover the family’s expenses. Some also laid items — such as flowers and skateboards — at a makeshift memorial along the stage.
As attendees passed the flames from candle to candle at the vigil, members of the school’s choir sang “Lean on Me.” Speakers focused on John as a skateboarding enthusiast, member of the swim team and overall kind individual. Speaker after speaker noted Malvar’s positive attitude and frequent encouragement of others.
“In this time of sadness and grief, it is important to remember that John was always the kind of person who was smiling and looking for the best in life no matter the circumstances,” said student Daniel Sharp, Jr.
Malvar was in Rob Summers’ anthropology class this year, and clearly left his mark on his teacher.
“I used to call John, ‘Big John.’ It wasn’t because of his stature, it was because of his heart. You never heard John saying anything negative or bad about a person, about the day, about what we were trying to learn. John had the most unique attitude of positivity,” said Summers. “John had that ear to ear grin and those eyes that always looked at you and told you no matter what was going on, there was another way to look at it.”
Similar to nearly all the other speakers, student Nicolas Suarez choked up while at the podium. He spoke of the times spent skateboarding and swimming with his good friend, and the enormous impact Malvar had on his life.
“I’m sure we can all say he was truly one of a kind. I can genuinely say that John was one of the most honest and caring souls I’ve ever met,” said Suarez. “He taught me so much about perseverance, honesty and most importantly above all, integrity. I think it’s safe to say that John embodied all aspects of what integrity means. John was a good friend of mine. His footprints on my life will forever guide me in the right direction.”
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Students at Washington-Lee High School have joined together to organize a candlelight vigil for classmate John Malvar, who was killed in a skateboarding accident yesterday (Tuesday).
18-year-old Malvar had been skateboarding while holding on to the back of a truck driven by a 17-year-old friend. He sustained significant head trauma and went into cardiac arrest after falling to the ground.
The vigil will take place tonight at 8:30 on the Quincy Street side of school, in the green space near the new softball field, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. Students organized the vigil and sat down with the school’s principal this morning to finalize details. Attendees are encouraged to walk or carpool due to lack of parking for all the people expected to attend.
According to Washington-Lee PTA President Kathi Driggs, as of 6:30 a.m. more than 700 students had signed up to attend the vigil. Attendees have been asked to wear black to the ceremony. Driggs also said that donations for the family are being accepted at the school.
Washington-Lee High School Principal Gregg Robertson issued the following statement today:
“Yesterday, Washington-Lee lost an incredible young man. I know things like that are often said of individuals that pass away; however for John, it could not be a truer statement. I will never see a brighter smile than that of John Malvar. He was thrilled last week when he received his perfect attendance award. I think that is very telling of his determination and dedication to himself and others. I’m very proud of the Washington-Lee community during this difficult time. Students in particular are coming together to celebrate John’s life and the contributions he made to his fellow classmates and to our school. In the coming days and weeks, all of us will remember John’s life in many ways. John will always remain close to our hearts and be remembered for the caring, outstanding young man he was.”
Malvar was supposed to graduate later this month. Right now, it’s unclear whether there will be any further vigils or a special recognition of Malvar at the graduation ceremony.
“I think the students, staff and administrators are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened,” said Bellavia.
Through song, prayer and poetry, the Hall’s Hill community came together Tuesday night to mourn the loss of two of its own.
A candlelight vigil was held for double homicide victims Keefe Spriggs and Carl Moten at the Hall’s Hill/High View Park Memorial Garden. Dozens of people young and old — including friends, family and neighbors of the victims — attended the somber vigil, which was organized in part by the Calloway United Methodist Church (5000 Lee Highway). Speakers included pastors and community members.
On the morning of August 7, 59-year-old Spriggs and 31-year-old Moten were found murdered in an apartment on the 1900 block of N. Culpeper Street, in Hall’s Hill — the neighborhood in which they were both born and raised. So far, police have not released any additional information regarding the ongoing investigation into the homicides.
Spriggs, known as Kee-Kee to friends and family, was divorced and was working at a body shop. Moten, also known as Pooh Bear, was an acquaintance of Spriggs and had been working as a cook at a restaurant in Falls Church.
Calloway pastor Rev. Sonja Flye Oliver said Spriggs and Moten both came from families with “extremely deep roots in the Hall’s Hill community.”
“Both of these families are families of faith, families of character,” she said. “These people exemplify what it means to be a close knit community.”
Rev. Oliver said it has been more than a decade since a crime like this has happened in the area.
“This is just shocking, it’s a shocking thing to have happen,” she said. “I’ve heard over and over again: things like this just don’t happen in Hall’s Hill.”
“When one of us hurts, all of us hurt, because we’re all related,” she told the gathered crowd. “We’re related by blood or we’re related by the Spirit. I like the feeling of family that this community exhibits all the time. You feel the love and the presence of God here.”
The families of both men are “not strangers to loss,” Rev. Oliver said. Spriggs’ mother had previously lost a son to a motorcycle accident and another son to an illness, she said.
The funeral for Spriggs was held on Tuesday. Moten’s funeral will be held at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in the Arlington View neighborhood on Thursday.
Rev. Oliver said Arlington County Police have been responsive to the community during the investigation into the homicides.
“We have faith that they are working diligently and trying to piece everything together,” she said. “I think the community will rejoice when we have an answer. We would just like to know who and why.”
In the meantime, she said, the “outpouring of love from the community” has been helping the families of Spriggs and Moten cope with their loss.
Update at 4:10 p.m. — A suspect has been arrested in the case.
Some 200 people gathered in front of the Capital Jewelers store at 3219 Columbia Pike last night (Wednesday) for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of slain shopkeeper Tommy Wong.
The Herndon resident was killed at his store during a robbery on the afternoon of Friday, July 27. Police are currently working leads in an effort to catch the killer, who was seen on surveillance footage entering the store while wearing a yellow traffic vest.
Among the crowd at the vigil last night were Mr. Wong’s family members — wife Elizabeth, daughter Vivian and son Desmond — plus friends, former co-workers, local residents, fellow Columbia Pike business owners, and a number of police officers and detectives.
Those who knew Mr. Wong described him as a friendly, industrious man who went the extra mile for customers and who worked hard to provide for his family.
“We are here to celebrate Tommy’s life,” said Lindsey Nguonly, owner of Princess Jewelers in Rockville, Md. Nguonly said Wong, a Hong Kong native, worked at his store for 15 years after he helped sponsor his emigration to the United States.
“Tommy came here to live the American Dream,” Nguonly said. “He never said no to anybody who asked for help. It is unfortunate and inconceivable to believe his life has been cut short like this.”
Robert Beverly, a Skyline resident and frequent customer of Capital Jewelers, said Wong had “a gentleness that we don’t see in this society very often.”
“You don’t stand alone here,” he said, addressing Mr. Wong’s family. “We feel your pain and we stand with you. We’re hoping and praying that the detectives will catch this culprit.”
Amid tears, family members thanked those in attendance and spoke briefly, but lovingly of Mr. Wong.
“My husband was a good man,” said Elizabeth Wong.
“My father has been a perfect role model,” said his 25-year-old son, Desmond. “I couldn’t have asked for more from my father.”
Vivian Wong said the turnout at the vigil — which was large enough to prompt police to block one lane of westbound Columbia Pike — was “amazing.”
“It makes it a lot easier to know we have so many people here to help us through this tough time,” she said. “I know if my father was here, he would be really touched.”
Among those in attendance was County Board member Chris Zimmerman, who lives in the nearby Douglas Park neighborhood. Zimmerman didn’t speak at the vigil, but said he came out in solidarity.
“It’s a loss to our Columbia Pike community,” he told ARLnow.com. “It’s something that shakes you. It’s terrible.”
Zimmerman’s sentiment was echoed by a customer who described Mr. Wong as a man of integrity who had a “great sense of honor.”
“We all love [Tommy] and we are going to miss him,” she told the gathered crowd. “We are not going to ever, ever forget.”
Candlelight Vigil for Hit and Run Victim — Friends of Zorigoo Munkhbayar gathered on the Rhodes Street Bridge Sunday night to mourn the 23-year-old’s tragic death. Munkhbayar was hit by a car — which then fled the scene — as he was walking down Route 50 early Friday morning. [Ode Street Tribune]
Residents Still Waiting for Promised Traffic Lights — Some residents are asking: Why haven’t traffic lights been installed at the intersections of N. Qunicy Street and 9th Street and Wilson Blvd and N. Pollard Street? After all, Arlington County has already collected tens of thousands of dollars from developers with the express purpose of installing traffic lights at the intersections. [Sun Gazette]
Clarendon Urgent Care Center Opens — Mid Atlantic Urgent Care opens today at 3301 Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon. The seven-day-a-week medical office encourages walk-in visits from patients with non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries. [Mid Atlantic Urgent Care]
Disclosure: Mid Atlantic Urgent Care is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
What Diener was not was a likely crime victim. After all, he lived within the safe confines of Lyon Village and, if worse came to worse, he was one of the fastest runners of all his sporty friends.
Nonetheless, early in the morning on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009, Diener was beaten and stabbed to death near the intersection of 13th and Irving Streets in Arlington. The shocking crime has remained Arlington’s only unsolved murder since 2006.
Last night, about two dozen friends of Diener showed up at the intersection for a candlelight vigil. Many of those in attendance said they counted Carl as a close friend, speaking to his instantly likable, outgoing personality.
“He was a guy who loved his friends and enjoyed life,” said Ed Hall, who knew Diener through his gym (Carl was a constant fixture at Arlington Sport & Health Club). “A lot of times when you hear about a murder on TV, people always say, ‘Oh he was a nice person.’ Carl really was.”
Diener, 57, lived alone in an apartment he first moved into 20 years prior. He had recently retired from a government job, and was on his way to his other job — opening Arlington Sport & Health in the pre-dawn hours — when he was attacked. Police say it was a random act of violence.
“He was a random victim, there’s no doubt,” said Det. Rosa Ortiz, the lead investigator in the case.
Friends say there must have been multiple assailants to overpower a man as in-shape as Diener.
“It was probably more than one, because Carl was a big guy,” said Michael Byrnes, who said he had played racquetball with Diener four time per week for the last 30 years. “It was a senseless, brutal act… in what we consider a safe neighborhood.”
Hall said Arlington’s relatively low homicide rate — there were two murders last year, and only one so far this year — is little consolation.
“They talk about, ‘Oh there were only two murders in Arlington County last year,” said Hall, his voice cracking with emotion. “Well, when it’s your friend, two is too many.”
The vigil is being organized in conjunction with a drive by police to gather more tips in the case. Police are planning on distributing fliers Wednesday night in the area of 13th and Irving Streets in Clarendon, where Diener was found beaten and stabbed early in the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009.
Diener, a 57-year-old retired government employee, was on his way to work at the Arlington Sport & Health Club at the time of his death. A $25,000 reward is offered for information that helps to solve the case.
“We are hoping that a candlelight vigil will remind the community of the events one year ago… and maybe someone will remember seeing or hearing something that will turn out to be helpful,” wrote Patti Diener Lough, Carl’s sister. “The more people there on Wednesday, the more attention this will get in the media, too. This can only help.”
Diener Lough says she expects several of Carl’s cousins and many of his friends to attend the vigil, which will start around 7:30.