The family and friends of Patrick Ward, a Bel Air resident who was murdered in his apartment Aug. 5, gathered for a candlelight vigil Friday evening to commemorate his life.
The event was slated to start at 7:30 p.m., but more than 100 mourners gathered for more than an hour after that time, gradually filling the baseball field at the intersection of Todd and Brierhill roads with candles.
Family members and those closest to Ward wore white shirts bearing a picture of Ward, the dates of his birth and death, and on the back the message “Save the Manatees”–a cause even his friends were at a loss to explain his interest in, but which they recognized nonetheless.
One of his friends, Michael Peterson, said Ward would have loved the scene.
“If you could imagine that he was the center of attention for 100 people, [his] smile would have been ear-to-ear,” Peterson said. “He would have gotten in the middle of it, and said ‘Let’s go, we’re putting this on Facebook.'”
Among the onlookers was Ward’s neighbor, Shirley Keil, who “saw ambulance lights go by” her apartment on the night of Ward’s death, but did not know the nature of the incident until hours later. Ward’s fellow classmates from Harford Community College, such as Steve Sopel and his service dog, Houdini, also came to show their support.
Both children and adults lit paper lanterns with the flame of their candles, which they released into the night sky. Afterward, those present gathered around a series of memorials adorning the baseball field’s backstop to share their memories of Ward.
Ward’s parents were presented by his friends with a collection of graduation cards for his recent completion of an associate’s degree in mass communication at Harford Community College, as well as a scrapbook they assembled.
Justin Rogers was one of several family friends who helped coordinate the assembly and gave a short statement toward the end of the evening. Rogers urged the crowd not to “have any hatred for anybody, because that’s what Pat would have wanted.”
Lilly Burns holds a candle for Patrick Ward at Friday’s candlelight vigil.
Ward’s friend Justin Rogers releases a memorial lantern.
A mourner leaves a message on a memorial for Ward.
(All photos by Kaitlyn Mortimer/The Dagger)