The grandparents who raised him used to call out “Bebo, Bebo!”—baby, in Spanish—to rouse him from his sleep.
Friday morning their “Bebo"s were wailing calls of grief mixed with “Te amos” and inconsolable cries of “Oh God, oh God.” These calls did not raise young Javier Martinez, the latest fatality of gun violence in New Haven, from his white flower-draped coffin.
Martinez died after someone shot him at least five times at close range, on the evening of Dec. 28. Police don’t yet know who killed Martinez. They do know that Martinez had never been in trouble with the law before.
His death has shocked and grieved the close community of teachers and Martinez’s fellow students at Common Ground High School. Click here to read about that reaction.
More than 100 mourners then defied the bitter cold aftermath of Winter Storm Hercules to attend the funeral of the much loved Common Ground High senior Friday morning. The funeral took place at Iglesia Jehova Mi Roca on Welton Street off State.
A standing-room only assembly of more than 300 had already come Thursday night to Martinez’s wake, including many of Javier’s teachers and friends from the environmental-themed high school, said Katyria Sanchez, an aunt.
“He had a beautiful smile, it’s unbelievable how many people loved him,” she said.
The school was an excellent fit for Javier, said his grandfather, Victor Martinez, a long-time employee at Boldwood Interiors in Fair Haven. Along with his wife Sonia, Victor took custody of Javier and raised him beginning at age 9. Although his parents struggled with their problems, including periods of incarceration, they were a presence in the household and Javier was very close to his father, Martinez said.
His grandson was clean, “no drugs, no drink,” Martinez insisted, expressing utter dismay in the midst of barely contained tears at what happened to his grandson, and why.
“He helped plant trees,” Martinez said, thinking about the arborist, or environmental scientist, his grandson might have become.
That point was underscored by Brigitte Griswold, director of youth programs for the Nature Conservancy and its LEAF (Leaders for Environmental Action for the Future) program. She drove up from New York for the funeral.
This past July Javier spent a month on Block Island with LEAP, she said. He worked at eliminating invasive species there and spreading the environmental gospel to visitors. It was a competitive national program attracting only 120 students from across the country.
Javier was an avid tree planter through Common Ground’s Green Jobs Program with Urban Resources Initiative, and through yet another environmental career program through the Regional Water Authority.
Certificates (pictured) of these achievements shared a place of honor Friday among the family and other photos in the displays beside Javier’s shining white coffin.
“He was one of the most outstanding [participants] in our 20-year history. We are all devastated by the loss of a young man with so much potential,” said Griswold (pictured).
Javier’s mailbox at school was full of college materials, said Common Ground Director of Development and Community Engagement Joel Tolman. “He was on a path.”
Both Javier’s Common Ground extended family and the Nature Conservancy are helping the family with funeral expenses.
Before the coffin was carried out by pallbearers for interment at Evergreen Cemetery, Sanchez reminded the mourners that an anti-violence rally has been called for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Ross/Woodward School off Quinnipiac Avenue in Bishop Woods.
“We’ll be there,” said Tolman.
He added that after the grieving has eased, the school will develop a memorial for Javier: “It will be something growing, like a habitat restoration, a way to keep him alive.”