A Mother's Love: Katina White Lives While Holding Tyquan's Memory Close
SURRY - Last Thursday would have marked a traditionally joyous time in a young man's life, transitioning from the teenage years and into young adulthood by celebrating his 20th birthday.
Tyquan Johnson was unable to celebrate that milestone with friends and family as his life was ended during a shooting at a graduation party in Surry County in 2012. His death came less than a day after he received his diploma from Sussex Central High School, which marked another transition in his life as he prepared to head to college to study engineering and play football.
That diploma sits in the home of Katina White, Tyquan's mother, along with photographs and other mementos that show remind her of the son she loved and continues to love after his death.
"My son was twenty years old, and his life got taken that early," she said.
As she spoke, Johnson's senior portrait sits over her shoulder. White said that times like his birthday and the holiday season are particularly hard on her and the whole family.
"It's hard because of him not being here; we can't buy presents and gifts. We, instead, have to go to the graveyard to take flowers and things to Tyquan's gravesite. That's hard."
"People can only imagine what we, as a family, are going through. Sometimes I think I am living a nightmare. How can you be graduating high school one day, then dead the next," she said.
Johnson was remembered by students, teachers, and coaches as a standout student, both on and off the field, where his athletic abilities were matched by his ability to excel in the classroom. As White read one of his last report cards from high school, she reflected on his decorated academic career.
"It was not all about the sports; He brought home A's and B's," she said. "The school system wanted to skip him to the next grade when Tyquan started 5th grade. The Governor's School wanted him, and Tidewater Academy wanted him really bad, but he wanted to say in Sussex," said White.
Former Sussex Central High School principal and current superintendent Dr. Arthur Jarrett spoke highly of Johnson when interviewed after his death in 2012.
"Tyquan was a smart student, a good person, and the faculty, staff, and students will miss him greatly," Jarrett said, adding, "He was an integral part of the Sussex Central High School family."
Among his athletic abilities, Johnson was also a member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at the high school.
"He was a leader. No one had a bad word to say about Tyquan," White said.
In Tyquan's room, which White has left the way it was when her son would study and sleep there, she looked at his trophies for academic and athletic excellence and Johnson's ROTC uniform while photos of the slain teenager with family and friends adorn the walls. She said she often thinks about what the future had for in store for her son.
"He didn't even get a year of college. He won't get to have kids. They say that God only takes the best, but, at the same time, I feel like I have been robbed," she said.
White said that the support of her family and friends, the county school system and area churches have allowed her to be able to move forward while continuing to honor the memory of her son, a memory White carries close to her.
"Tyquan had heart. He was not selfish. Tyquan would have never acted like some boys do," she said.
"It would take a lot to get him upset, and he always wanted to succeed. He was simply a role model and a leader, something you don't find too much of in today's generation."
In honor of his 20th birthday, White had a special message for her son.
"God is our strength. We miss you so much. Words will never overflow to start. There's never a dull day we don't think about you. We grow stronger each and everyday missing you. We love you, and God loves you more. Love and miss you always, Mom, family, and friends.