WARREN - Brandon A. Murray already was a leader, according to those celebrating his life on Monday.
Everything about his young life showed he was preparing for leadership - in the way he interacted with his siblings, in school and through his participation in the Pythagoreans of Warren.
Max Williamson described Brandon as a young man who always had a smile on his face, and who enjoyed helping others.
"I never thought I would be here," said Williamson, his voice beginning to trail. "But I know God is good."
Williamson was one of about a dozen speakers who praised Murray during a packed funeral at Grace AME Church. Mourners stood outside the doors listening as the teen was eulogized. There were many adults and young people who laughed and cried as they were reminded of a young man who touched their lives in many different ways.
Murray was one of six Warren teenagers killed when a vehicle he was riding in early March 10 flipped over a guardrail along Niles Warren River Road S.E. in Howland, an extension of Pine Avenue S.E.
Also buried on Monday were Daylan T. Ray at Apostolic Faith Church and Andrique Bennett at Triedstone Baptist Church. The funeral for 15-year-old Kirklan Behner was Friday at North-Mar Church, and the services for Alexis Cayson, 19, were Saturday at Greater Apostolic.
The service for Ramone M. White, 15, is noon today at New Freedom Missionary Baptist Church.
Murray was described as a young man who had an infectious smile, enjoyed playing games, but also took seriously his responsibilities in his home and at school.
Williamson emphasized Grace AME was not only celebrating Murray's life, but also honoring the other families that lost young people in the accident. Murray also was recognized for donating his vital organs so other lives could be saved.
The Rev. Morris Lee said that it was Christ who determined he would no longer be here with his family and friends.
"God has a mercy seat," Lee said. "I do not know why certain things happen. It is not up to me to question. There are a whole lot of things we want to know, but we have to trust in the Lord."
The Rev. Gina Thornton, pastor at Grace AME, said it is OK that a grieving parents ask where God was when their child is hurt or dies. Questioning is a natural part of the healing process, she said.
"Parents ask God, 'Where were you?'" If people listen, they'll know he's always been there."
Tammy Penman, a teacher at Lincoln K-8 School in Warren, speaking for Linda Laurich, described Murray as being very shy when he first arrived in Laurich's classroom.
"By the time he was in the eighth grade, I was watching a teenager grow into a respectful young man," Penman read. "He had so much enthusiasm and a plan for the future. He wanted to be a chef.
"It is so sad that Brandon is gone from us," she said. "He had so much to live for. This is heartbreaking."
Dylan Pflanger remembered his friend: "When Brandon's family lived near me, he would always come over to my house and play basketball or play Madden. Every time I would beat him, he would say it was just luck."
Pflanger said when his family moved away, it was a very sad time.
"We are here not to mourn his death, but to celebrate his life," Pflanger said.
Mayor Doug Franklin said residents must be willing to do more than simply grieve for these young people, but to grow and learn from the accident. "A sister of one of the victims said it best when she said, 'Tell the people who you love that you love them.'"
Franklin said one way to honor Murray and the other victims is to encourage young people to make responsible decisions.
"Brandon was a true leader," Franklin said. "I'm asking young people to be leaders in their schools. I'm asking them to be leaders in their homes and in their communities. That is what we can do to honor these young people."
Gloria Rodgers described Murray as a devoted son to his mother, Lisa Williamson.
"He was like her little husband," she joked. "He was always looking after her. He was her rock."
Rodgers cautioned the young people in the audience to think about the choices they are making everyday.
"Spend what time you have with the ones you love," she said."Try to be the person that God intended you to be. Find happiness in your lives, regardless of your circumstances. Give God thanks for all you have in your lives."