Smiling, driven, friendly, leaders: That’s how many remembered Travis “TJ” Jenkins Jr. and Andrew Sheppard as hundreds gathered in Shark Stadium Monday night.
There, family, students, teachers, administrators and community members gathered to share their grief, prayers and memories of the two student-athletes, who were tragically killed in a single-car accident on County Road 386 two days prior.
The vigil, hosted by the boys’ classmates, marked just one of several large gatherings held in the accident’s wake. For those who attended, the event gave them a space to remember their loved ones not for the events of last weekend, but for the impact the two will have on their lives and on the community itself.
“What a great community that we get to live in and raise our children in,” said Port St. Joe High School Football Coach Tanner Jones as he looked out at those gathered. Jones had coached both Jenkins and Sheppard through their years at the high school.
Then, he turned his back to the crowd to address the gathered family members who sat behind him.
“To the parents, what a great job you did with those two boys and the men they were becoming. The impact that they made was on not just their family and their teammates, but the community as a whole. The love and outpouring that’s come out of this shows support for you all.”
Jenkins, 18, would have been entering his senior year at Port St. Joe High School in August. He is remembered not only as a stellar athlete and a strong student, but as a leader within his teams and his school and a young man deeply dedicated to his faith and to his family.
Sheppard, 16, would have been entering his junior year this fall, and his coaches say he was expected to take on leadership roles on his teams in the upcoming seasons.
Those who knew him described Sheppard as being a true problem solver and a hard worker. He was a member of both the school’s football and weightlifting teams and was known for his reserved but kind demeanor and his friendly smile.
The high school’s basketball coach, Sandy Quinn, who worked with Jenkins, led those gathered in prayer.
“We thank you for the lives of TJ and Andrew, Lord. But Lord, this community needs you more than ever. This family needs you more than ever,” he said.
“Lord, we have cried and cried and cried, and we ask why. But Lord, we know that you know. You make no mistakes. You know the way. You know the direction. So Father, we call on you tonight, Lord. We ask, we pray for your love to continue to shine on this family, on this community, Lord. We give you praise and we thank you, Lord God, for the many memories that TJ and Shep left in our lives, in this community.”
Accounts have been established for both Jenkins and Sheppard at Capital City Bank in Port St. Joe for those who wish to make donations to their families. Funds donated will go towards helping to pay for arrangements and other costs.
The account number for Jenkins is #10001223337. The account number for Sheppard is #10001223246.
Those who are making deposits from out of town are asked to make reference to the account number and address them to:
Capital City Bank — Attn: Kristi Dorman
150 Avenue A
Port St. Joe, FL 32456.
A visitation will be held for the family at Port St. Joe High School on Friday at 5 p.m., and a public viewing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. EDT.
Funeral services will be held for both Jenkins and Sheppar in the high school’s gymnasium on Saturday, with services for Jenkins beginning at 11 a.m. EDT and services for Sheppard beginning at 3 p.m. EDT.
“The strength of our community is that we can come together in good times and in bad times,” said Preacher Dave Barkalow from the First United Methodist Church of Port St. Joe, who prayed with students in the school’s commons on Sunday following the news of Jenkins and Sheppard’s deaths.
“… I wish there were magic words, words we could just say to make everything better, but there aren’t. We live in a broken world. We live in a world where sometimes wonderful, beautiful things happen and where sometimes difficult, painful things happen. So as we gather here today, we pray that a spirit of comfort, a spirit of community, a spirit of love may mark us to give us the courage to be sad and to mourn and the courage to speak of the good times and the fond memories.”