On a clear, warm October evening, the friends and family of Jacob Alexander Ray gathered around the fountain area of Western Carolina University’s Central Plaza to pay their respects with a candlelight vigil. Ray passed away earlier this week from wounds sustained in a shooting near campus.
The vigil, organized by his brothers in the WCU Club Soccer team, was already in the hundreds by 9 p.m., as more attendees continued to arrive afterwards. Wrapping the fountain area was multiple rows of people, each holding a plastic cup containing a tealight candle, the flames of which shone out into the darkness in a brilliant, unified ring of light.
Western Carolina is typically a quiet campus, but despite the number of people, the air around the vigil was even more quiet and somber than normal. Even when Ray’s teammates took the microphone and began sharing stories and remembering their fallen friend, the square kept the peace and tranquility that would mark the night as exceedingly special.
There was no question that Ray was on the other side of the huge, open sky above them, looking down and smiling at all the love and support the Catamount community had shown.
The members of WCU Club Soccer would go on to open the microphone to anyone who wanted to say a few words or share a story about Ray, and many would, laughing at stories of their friend in-between tears shed at the loss.
The Jacob Ray Medical and Memorial Fund has been set up on GoFundMe. Within just two days, it had already raised over a third of its $15,000 goal with 65 backers. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/jacob-ray-medical-and-memorial-fund.
To learn more about Jacob Ray and the plans for his service, visit his obituary at www.forestlawnhendersonville.com/obituary/jacob-alexander-ray/.