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Patch: Newark Family Prepares for Memorial

Published on Newark Patch on Dec. 24, 2010
By Kris Vera-Phillips

The mother of the 17-year-old high school student who was murdered last week will spend Christmas Day at her son’s sidewalk  at Cedar Boulevard and Birch Street.

“There is no more Christmas this year,” Suvania Afoa said.

Afoa keeps a daily vigil at the sidewalk memorial, the site where Newark police found Justice Afoa bleeding from a Dec. 15 stabbing attack.

To help the Newark community come to terms with Justice’s death, Afoa is helping with a Sunday service for her son at . The service will begin at 1 p.m.

“My sister and I are decorating the gym with photos,” she said.

On Sunday, Afoa and her son’s friends will share stories of the Newark Memorial senior and football player.
Afoa says she expects to see her son’s friends from , the school that Justice attended prior to Newark Memorial, at the Sunday service.

On Monday morning, the Afoa family will hold a funeral service at the Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward.

While they mourn, the Afoa family also wants answers. Afoa says she wants to know why somebody killed her son.

“I want to see who did this to him,” she said. “They didn’t have to kill him. They could have just beat him up and let him live.”

Afoa says she will always remember Justice as a good, quiet boy who loved sports, who would always take care of his loved ones and who ate everything she cooked.

“Patrick Willis was his hero,” Afoa said. She recalled seeing Justice sitting in front of the television, watching the inside linebacker play for the San Francisco 49ers.

According to Afoa, Justice was an active boy who participated in several sports at Carlmont High and Newark Memorial, including football, track, wrestling, basketball and baseball.

“Football was his favorite,” she said. “He was good at it. He told me he was going to make to the NFL. That was his dream.”

Afoa’s trophy for being Newark Memorial’s 2009 Outstanding Defense Player stands tall inside the family’s living room. The Christmas tree that he decorated stands across the room. His family added a white poster, with photos of Justice and messages from his classmates.

His mother and his five brothers and sisters watched all of his football games. Afoa said sometimes her son would feel embarrassed, because everyone cheered so loudly for him.

“Especially his sister, Dinah,” Afoa said. “Sometimes he would say, ‘Mom, can you please tell Dinah to stop screaming?’ I would say we’re there to cheer for you, to support you.”

She also wanted Justice to take care of himself on the field.

“Before his games I would tell him to play smart and to be safe,” she said.

Afoa said her children wanted to move from East Palo Alto to Newark because it was a safer community.

Off the field, Afoa said, her son cleaned up the house and tried to make his brothers and sisters clean up their rooms.

“He was my right hand,” Afoa said. “If my family was planning on coming by the house, I would tell Justice. When I came home from work, everything was clean.”

Afoa said Justice became the man of the house when his father died from cancer in 2004. She trusted her son to make sure everything was taken care of at home while she worked as a coordinator at Sunrise Senior Living in Belmont.

“The only thing he didn’t do was cook,” Afoa said. “So he would ask me to cook. He wasn’t picky. He ate rice, spaghetti, soup, seafood—anything. His favorite was shrimp and crab.”

Before he made a name for himself on the football field, Afoa said Justice became ill with rheumatic fever in 2003.

“Every six months, I had to take him to the doctors for his chest X-ray,” Afoa said. “Every month, he had to go in for his penicillin shot. When he was 16, he was clear of the fever.”

When Justice was growing up, Afoa said she would let his friends stay overnight at her house on the weekends.

Now, Afoa and her children are at the sidewalk memorial on Cedar Boulevard with Justice’s friends.

“We talk with his friends every night,” Afoa said. “Those kids are like my own now. I tell them, ‘Whatever happens with Justice, leave it to the police.’ I don’t want any retaliation.”

Afoa says she can manage when his friends and her family keep her company. It’s a different story when she comes home and it becomes clear her son is gone.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.”

The Afoa family is collecting donation’s for Justice’s funeral service. People who wish to contribute may file donations under his mother’s name, Suvania Afoa.

Kris Vera-Phillips @ December 24, 2010

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