05/18/08 — Luminarias, buttons ... and love

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Luminarias, buttons ... and love

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 18, 2008 2:00 AM

Each of the luminarias was marked with a phrase.

"Every candle has a name."

But in many cases Friday evening, dozens of flames burned in honor or in memory of a particular man, woman or child.

Thurman Daniels was represented by more than a dozen -- each lining a step on the ladder his family members stood up at Wayne Community College.

"He was a painter," his stepdaughter, Lisa Mallery, said. "And he was a good man."

So was John Evans, his nephew, Grady, said.

Maybe that is why Grady and his girlfriend, Katie Hill, found light sticks to place inside his luminarias -- ones that had, like many others, been damaged by heavy rains that fell on Relay for Life just an hour before.

But rain never stopped Evans from shining while he was living, his nephew said.

So it wasn't going to stop his memory from shining this night.

"He actually loved to watch the storms come in," Grady said. "You could see them sometimes when we would be fishing. He would have loved to have been here."

Thousands of memories were shared Friday by cancer survivors, those still battling, loved ones and family members of the departed.

But the 7,000-plus luminarias that transformed a WCC parking lot into a memorial were just a part of it.

Haley Walsh was there -- on a button.

At 56, she lost her battle with cancer last year.

But her sister, Cathy, made sure she made it to another Relay.

"She never joined a team but came out for years," Cathy said. "It was a time she could look cancer in the eye and smile."

She was smiling Friday.

In fact, in the picture on that button, she looked "about as happy as anybody could be," Cathy said.

William Davis looked happy, too.

He had just hooked a fish and was holding it up in the picture his grandson, Will, wore as a button.

"He loved being outside," Will said. "Put him in the woods and he would take that over just about anything."

These were the stories playing out at Relay.

There were husbands and wives who had lost a partner and showed up to shed a tear or hug with children and friends.

There were children still grieving the loss of a parent; grandchildren out to honor grandparents they might have never met.

"All these people, none of them is the same," said June Weldon, on hand to honor the memory of her friend Linda Church. "Cancer doesn't discriminate."

And by the feeling you got when you walked around the site, love, support and fellowship don't either.

Just ask Lisa Mallery, one of thousands who showed up offering, and in need of, a shoulder to cry on -- if only for an evening.

"He took us in when I was 9," she said of her stepfather, Thurman. "You couldn't have asked for a better man."