West Point mourns loss of teen with vigil and memories

Family and friends gathered to remember the passing of Jashun “Peedy” Johnson at Zuber Park in West Point on Sunday. The specific court pictured was Peedy Johnson’s favorite spot in the park. (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)
Jashun “Peedy” Johnson (courtesy)

Two balloons swayed tangled around a floodlight overlooking a special basketball court at Zuber Park in West Point on Sunday. A cool breeze had previously lifted an array of other balloons into the air in memory of a local teenager killed in a Saturday-evening car accident.

Most of the balloons were mere pinpricks in the gloomy April sky by the time everyone’s attention turned back to a formation of candles in the number 24 … but two balloons stuck around.

West Point High School Basketball Coach Brad Cox said it was Jashun “Peedy” Johnson not wanting to leave his favorite court.

“The balloons stuck around and Peedy didn’t want to leave the court, but he is always going to be with us,” Cox said,

More than 100 people, many in West Point Green Wave attire, came to the vigil held at Zuber Park after receiving the news of the 18-year-old’s death in a Lowndes county car accident.

At one point during the vigil, the crowd became silent, then on the count of three all cheered “Go Peedy” - a cheer followed by grieving tears, sniffles and sobs throughout the large crowd.

Cox taught Johnson from freshman year until his passing, telling the SDN Johnson - who was one month from graduating - had already enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

He said the outpour of support from the community following the young man’s death shows just how much Peedy Johnson meant to those he impacted on a daily basis.

“(The size of the crowd) does all the explaining,” Cox said. “It’s fitting this is where we are because this was even more home than our court. This was his spot. But it’s so much more than just basketball. It’s the young man that he had become.”

Peedy Johnson’s father Jermaine Johnson, 36, said his son had come back from the preliminary stages of his military training Thursday and was excited for the opportunity to serve his country.

Jermaine Johnson said when his oldest son was growing up, he spent countless hours with him learning the game of basketball at Zubar Park on Peedy Johnson’s favorite court. It was a habit and hobby that would stick with Peedy Johnson his entire life.

“He was such a good son to me,” Jermaine Johnson said. “He was well-loved by the whole community, as you can see, and I was just trying to lead him down a good path, and he was headed that way."

A recurring trend that many of Peedy Johnson’s friends, family and those in the community spoke to was the young man’s compassion and care for others.

Jermaine Johnson said his son was a great role model for his younger brother and always enjoyed playing with younger children.

Everitt Cunningham, 18, knew Peedy Johnson from early childhood and said his friend always brought a positive spirt to those around him.

“I played with Peedy since tee-ball, since I first met him,” Cunningham said. “My favorite memories are coming out and shooting ball with him. He always brought a good spirit. He always kept people laughing. You couldn’t help but smile when he was around.”

Peedy Johnson’s love of basketball was another recurring theme with those in attendance when asked him. Many current and former players wore West Point High School basketball uniforms in memory of their lost teammate.

Jermaine Johnson said during his son’s childhood and into his teenage years, the competitive spirit he built in his son is something he will always be proud of.

“We know he is in a better place,” Jermaine Johnson said. “And I finally admitted today to his friends, he had gotten better than me … and I admit that and always told him he wasn’t because it made him stronger and more competitive. And he sure was better than me.”