Vigil for Tony Lee Stafford Held at Eastview Cemetery

Published 2:03 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

Several gathered at the Eastview Cemetery on August 27th despite the recent rain to commemorate the life of Tony Lee Stafford. Mr. Stafford passed away after succumbing to workplace injuries sustained at Golden Gourmet.
Speaking for the NAACP on behalf of President Eugene Edge, Craig Walker addressed those gathered.
“I didn’t really know Mr. Stafford. But to answer that age old question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Yes I am. We all are.”
He spoke about Mr. Stafford’s early demise.
“Yes we all have to travel that path. But we do feel like it was premature. We know a lot of things that happened and a lot of things that didn’t happen. Right now we are waiting for OSHA to complete it’s investigation. After that, we can move forward. I do know that there are policies and procedures that must be followed in the workplace.”
“What we have to do now is stand with this family. Our condolences and our deepest sympathy goes out to you from the Sumter county NAACP.”
“If the employers tend to be nonchalant or act like his life didn’t matter, those of you that were here today, if need be we will go to that jobsite.”
A co-worker of Mr. Stafford, pastor Perry Gibbons, addressed the group.
“He was my co-worker. We worked together. We worked in the same area. And I’m coming as a friend to represent all of his coworkers that wanted to be here.”
He expressed his condolences to the family.
“He was a good worker. We miss him, we love him, and we are praying for the family.”
Leslie Johnson, Mr. Stafford’s sister, talked about her brother.
“We thank God for Tony’s life.”
“About a month or so before he passed away, he had started turning some things around, he had started changing a lot of things in his life. Lot of things he used to do, he just stopped doing. ‘I don’t need that, I don’t want that, I don’t have to have that. I just want to do some things right.’”
“That should have been a sign that God was going to come get him.”
She also expressed deep gratitude for the support her brother’s had given her throughout her life.
Balloons were released to honor Mr. Stafford’s fifty-fifth birthday. Afterwards the family took a short walk from the pavilion and lit vigil lamps and placed them on Mr. Stafford’s grave. After the vigil, Ms. Johnson talked about the aftermath of her brother’s death.
“We do see justice down the road. We do see the light of day when it comes to the details of what really happened.”
“Just this week we got a lot of information.”
Ms. Johnson expressed continued frustration with Golden Gourmet’s lack of response to her brother’s death.
“We’re going to send a message.”
Christopher O’Bryant discussed the vigil afterwards and was asked if he thought the vigil served to bring awareness of the Mr. Stafford’s death to the community.
“Yes, and I think it also helps to bring closure and an extra layer of comfort to the family.”
He shared his overall impression of the vigil.
“I think everything was beautiful and wonderful. I think it was much needed.”