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Ruth Whitfield to be laid to rest Saturday

courtesy Legacy.com

Ruth Whitfield will be laid to rest on Saturday, May 28. She was one of the victims of the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, but she’ll be remembered by her loved ones as a devoted and caring wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

“What I remember most about my mom, what I loved most about my mom, is how she loved us. How she loved our family unconditionally. How she sacrificed everything for us as she gave of herself when she had nothing else to give,” said Garnell Whitfield, Jr., one of four children born to Ruth and Garnell Whitfield, Sr.

Family members, in recent days, recalled how their father, who for years has resided in a local nursing home, worked multiple jobs so that Ruth could stay home to care for the children.

After he relocated to the nursing home, his wife would visit daily and, according to her children, help him by bringing clean clothes, cutting his hair, addressing other grooming needs, even when she wasn’t necessarily feeling up to it that day.

She had just concluded a visit with her husband on the afternoon of May 14 when Mrs. Whitfield stopped inside the Tops Market on Jefferson Avenue to pick up some groceries. It was there she and 12 others were shot by an 18-year-old male gunman who traveled to Buffalo from the Binghamton area to specifically target Black victims, according to investigators and to a lengthy document alleged to have been published by the suspect.

“She spent every day of that life trying to protect us from the very violence that she fell to. That is unthinkable,” said Raymond Whitfield during an appearance May 19. “But you know what? We are going to rally together as she has taught us to rally together.”

Ruth Whitfield was a devoted member of Durham Memorial AME Zion Church. She instilled in her two sons and two daughters her strong Christian faith. One of her sons, Garnell, Jr., would one day grow up to become the City of Buffalo’s Fire Commissioner, a position he held from 2010 until his retirement in 2017.

In the days after the attack, family members admitted feelings of hurt, anger, even betrayal.

“She was my best friend. What am I to do? What am I supposed to do now? I keep seeing her face coming up everywhere but I can't hug her, okay? We were supposed to go see the Temptations play that night, and I have the tickets still on my table,” said Robin Harris, Whitfield’s eldest daughter.

Her message to the suspected gunman, “how dare you?”

Family members also recall how their mother also taught them to be proud of who they are, even when others haven’t respected it.

“She taught us to be unapologetic for those people who do not see us. How dare you not see us as Americans? We stand here on the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors. She taught us to be proud of that fact, okay? She was unapologetically an African American princess,” said Raymond Whitfield.

Ruth Whitfield’s funeral will be held this Saturday, with visitation beginning at 11 a.m. and the service following at noon, at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Buffalo.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.