A candlelight vigil for Anthony Hartfield Jr. ended on the basketball court where he spent hours playing pickup games with friends, honing the skills he hoped would help him pay for college.
The small outdoor court on the north side of Western Hills Baptist Church was full of friends and family Wednesday night. They came to mourn the loss of Hartfield, who was shot to death during a home invasion Monday.
Mourners spoke about Hartfield's contagious smile, goofy sense of humor and determination to rise up and make something of his life.
“You were never bored around him; his smile brightened up your day,” said Parres Drake, a friend he met at U.S. Grant High School. “He was the last person you'd think this would happen to.”
Drake said life at an inner-city high school was full of pressures, but Hartfield marched ahead, undeterred, encouraging his friends and classmates.
“He used basketball to keep out of trouble,” she said. “We had friends who messed up and are in gangs, but he pushed everyone to do better. He would say ‘You're better than that. You've got so much more to offer.'”
Hartfield told his friends anything was possible, Drake said.
Saundra Littlejohn, Drake's mother, was struck by how mature and focused Hartfield was.
“He knew where he was going and what he needed to do to get there,” Littlejohn said. “He kept saying that doors were opening for him, and he embraced it. It's rare to find that in a young adult.”
She was glad her daughter had such a reliable and determined friend.
“He didn't drink, didn't do drugs. That's what makes this whole thing so horrific ... I hate that this happened to Anthony. He was just starting his adult life on a positive note, so for it to end so tragically, it's a wake-up call for all of us.”
Drake said she's dumbfounded by the violent act that ended her friend's life.
“There are so many innocent young people whose lives are being taken,” she said. “All I can do is do everything right and do something for him ... It's hard picturing life going forward without him.”
Quano Marzette met Hartfield through basketball. They spent the summer playing basketball together, often on the court at Western Hills Baptist Church, 401 SW 44.
“It's sad that something so bad can happen to such a good, kind person,” he said.
He always talked about his family and his future and kept everyone smiling.
Gee Bonds met Hartfield at U.S. Grant and played basketball with him, including AAU basketball for two summers.
The friends had moved apart to go to separate schools — Bonds to Redlands Community College in El Reno and Hartfield to Connors State College in Warner.
The move made them basketball rivals.
In a phone conversation the Sunday night before he was killed, Hartfield encouraged his friend to be successful, play hard and make something of himself.
“He was determined that both of us finish college,” Bonds said. “I want justice for him ... Everything I do from now on, I'm gonna do for him.”