Victims of violence turn to west end business to grieve

(source: Teri Tharpe)
(source: Teri Tharpe)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Unless you've been there, it's hard to imagine what a family devastated by violence goes through.

Louisville Metro Police say homicides are down since 2008, but more families are coming together honoring and remembering their loved ones. Sometimes it's through vigils, other times it's through sharing a picture to show how much the loved ones are missed. WAVE 3 has learned many victims of violence turn to a growing business to help them grieve.

For Teri Tharpe, talking about the loss of her son hasn't gotten any easier. "Most people say you aren't supposed to bury your child, your child is supposed to bury you," said Tharpe. "It's hard to describe."

It was August 19, 2008 that 19-year-old Antonio Tharpe was gunned down in Beecher Terrace, just days away from his first semester at UK on an academic scholarship. Tharpe never got a chance to say goodbye to her son.

"My whole world collapsed that day," said Tharpe. "I just felt like I had nothing else to live for."

The last picture taken of Antonio was on his bike. Teri said he was showing off his UK school badge to his friends. The picture is how Teri says she wants to remember her son. She had it placed in a key chain so she could have it with her all the time.

"It's something to remember them because the last thing you see is them in a casket," said Teri Tharpe. "When you get T-shirts made or pictures it's when you wear them they are smiling."

Just like Tharpe, other victims of violence remember, they grieve, they support. Many times with what they wear, close to their hearts.

"I used to see people in R.I.P. shirts and I never thought I would have to do that," said Tharpe. "In the last couple of years you would see them more and more. When I grew up you never saw those T-shirts, vigils, none of that."

This type of public display has caused a west end business to grow.

"You kind of feel for the people and you get up early and do what you have to do to push their orders," said Alphonzo Howard. "R.I.P., in loving memory, the shirts, tags."

Howard is the owner of Goodfellas II off Broadway. He started making shirts out of his home ten years ago. His business grew so much that he moved into a retail space a year ago.

"It's kind of like two sides to one coin," said Howard. "You want to provide your service, you want to do shirts but, then again it kind of saddens you a little bit when you see the people on the shirts."

Howard keeps an eye on what's going on in the streets.

"I'm watching the news, and I see a murder," said Howard. "I generally look at their age, look at their area where they were in and I know well, we are gonna be busy tomorrow."

Shirts sell anywhere from $15-$25; badges $5.

"He made a fortune and he's going to continue as long as they continue to kill people out here," said Tharpe.

Howard wouldn't call his business a fortune but, hopes that it helps people heal and possibly learn.

"The ones involved in gang violence stuff like that, I try to talk to them and tell them and say, 'Maybe you see this person on a shirt and maybe you don't want to end up like that,'" said Howard.

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.