Loving. Caring. Smart. Humble.

These are among the words friends and family wrote on over-sized cards to describe Tyvihon “Ty” Banks during a community gathering Wednesday at the Kingdom Family Worship Center in Bragg Hill.

The James Monroe High School sophomore, who lived in Bragg Hill, died after suffering a seizure and collapsing while playing basketball during gym class Tuesday afternoon. Andrea Banks, Ty’s mother, said she was shocked when JMHS Principal Taneshia Rachal called to let her know the rescue squad was taking him to Mary Washington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He had asthma, she said, but hadn’t been ill.

An autopsy is being done, and funeral arrangements were not finalized as of Thursday afternoon.

The Rev. Joseph Henderson, Kingdom Family’s co-pastor, said just before the gathering began that even though Ty’s life was short, the teen had a “profound impact” on many people.

“He was a very cordial young man, very helpful to his mom,” he said. “I’m told that’s the sentiment that the majority of people have.”

As more than 100 family and friends began entering the worship center, Henderson invited them to write a word that they thought best described Ty on several oversized cards. They would be given to his mother as a remembrance of her son, he said.

The program began with a moment of silence, and then people were encouraged to come forward to share their memories of Ty. His little sister Ta’Kiyah Banks, who will turn 8 on Tuesday, was the first to stand before the crowd. She smiled, and then seemed at a loss for words. When she finally spoke, her voice was so soft she could barely be heard.

Several of her brother’s friends came forward next, and struggled to share their stories without crying. One said that Ty had been laughing and joking Wednesday, and the news that his friend had died broke his heart.

Another called Ty “a good man” and a “really good friend” who always seemed at peace. A third said that Ty had convinced him not to commit suicide a few weeks ago.

Tamaira Chapman, Ty’s aunt, called her nephew “an old soul,” and said that he was always polite and always a gentleman.

“I just can’t believe that he’s gone,” she said as tears streamed down her face.

The Rev. Doris Henderson, Kingdom Family’s co-pastor, talked about how highly Ty thought of his mother, and how he had talked about taking care of her when he grew up.

“That shows you what a good man he was,” she said. “Don’t forget to check on his mom. Make sure Mom is doing OK.”

The gathering included a reading of the 23rd Psalm, prayers and a hymn. As it ended, people walked out to the parking lot where Ty’s grandfather, Debrouski Mathis, handed out the 10 bright-red, heart-shaped balloons that he’d brought.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids, but he was very special,” Mathis said. “Humble. Respectful. Kids, whenever they had problems, they’d talk to him. He’d talk to me when he had problems. I’d always tell him, ‘Help your fellow man.’ ”

Two of Ty’s friends, 12-year-old Jamie Martino, and JM senior Jalen Rodriguez, clutched basketballs as they waited for the balloons to be released. Jamie said he brought his because Ty had gotten him involved in the Midnight Madness youth basketball program.

“He was always making sure that you were OK, even if he was going through stuff,” Jalen said. “I didn’t believe it when I heard he’d died. It took me forever to believe it.”

Banks said that her son loved his family, and was the one who came up with the name for his little sister. It’s a combination of his name and a relative’s.

She said that he was born with a speech impediment and learned sign language when he was a year old. He was going to take advanced classes his junior year.

“He’s overcome a lot,” Banks said as the balloons were released and began floating skyward. “He will truly be missed.”

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407


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