BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Images of Celestine Chaney’s shooting death in a hate-fueled attack inside a Buffalo supermarket made their way across the internet in the days that followed. At her funeral Tuesday, images from a treasured life filled the space, showing her smiling and holding her family close.
Chaney, 65, was among 10 Black people killed May 14 when a white gunman wearing body armor and a helmet-mounted camera targeted shoppers and workers at a Tops Friendly Market. Three others were injured in the attack, which federal authorities are investigating as a hate crime.
Chaney’s son, Wayne Jones Sr., told mourners inside the Elim Christian Fellowship sanctuary that he felt empty despite being “somewhat prepared mentally for this day” after watching his mother survive breast cancer and three brain aneurysms.
A single mother after a divorce, Chaney had taught her only child how to survive, Jones said.
“When the lights were off, we lit candles. When the heat was off we just got in one room,” he said. “When there was nothing to eat we got one meal and we shared it.”
“Life will never be the same,” said Jones, who before the service placed a hand on his mother’s white casket as members of the congregation she was devoted to stretched their right hands toward him in support.
The alleged gunman, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, of Conklin, has been charged with murder and is being held without bail.
The oldest of Chaney’s nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, Wayne Jones Jr., said he wished for one more phone call from his funny and caring grandmother who had celebrated her 65th birthday with steak, lobster and mimosas a week before her death.
“Of course she wanted the most expensive thing on the menu,” granddaughter Kayla Jones said to laughter.
Mayor Byron Brown labeled Tuesday “Celestine Chaney Day” in Buffalo in a proclamation read at the service. A slideshow of family photos played on an oversized screen as the service came to a close.
Wayne Jones Sr. said last week that his mother’s death was confirmed for him when he first saw a photo and then video of the shooting. Chaney and her 74-year-old sister had been shopping for strawberry shortcakes and other groceries on a warm Saturday afternoon.
Shopping was typically how the mother and son had spent time together, hitting store after store and grabbing a hot dog or McDonald’s along the way, he said.
“This is one ride we can’t go with her. She’s got to take this one alone,” Jones told mourners, breaking down.
“I wish I could go with her,” he said. “Just to protect her.”
More funerals are scheduled throughout the week.
On Monday, family, friends and co-workers said goodbye to 72-year-old Katherine “Kat” Massey, who was remembered as a community activist and education advocate dedicated to improving her city.