LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - On the day before his funeral, friends of Maurice Stallard, one of the victims from last week’s Kroger shooting, gathered to remember his life.
Together, they vowed to keep a tradition started by Stallard alive.
A group of buddies began meeting at Hotel Louisville about every other month or so to grab lunch together, a gathering originally organized by Stallard. They now call themselves the Brotherhood.
At a meeting Monday, some said coping with his death has been tough because they never saw it coming.
"For this to happen so quickly, I just don't know what to do," friend LeBaron Pettaway said. "This took the starch out of me."
For those close to Stallard, there was no warning that a man so full of life would be the same one they’d honor Monday with a group picture after his tragic death.
"He's just well loved by many people," friend Phil Fletcher said.
Many people, especially those who became the Brotherhood, who he relentlessly encouraged to come eat with him - all not realizing time was running out to have lunch with Maurice.
"He called me for about a year, wanting me to come and hang out with the crew," friend Larry Goodwin said. "I kept resisting. I didn't think it was as important as it really turned out to be."
But even after Maurice is gone, his stories and the laughs are not.
"We loved being in the drumline because the girls liked the drumline," Fletcher joked.
At Male is where he'd meet his high school sweetheart, who would become his wife of more than 50 years.
Friends also smiled when remembering a tennis club they all joined together later in life.
"None of us were that good, but we had fun," Pettaway said.
Good times, always punctuated with positivity, just like the lunch he organized every month.
“Once something like this gets started, it’s really hard to stop,” Goodwin said.
The Brotherhood doesn’t plan on doing that any time soon.
Even though they never thought they'd be buying flowers for Maurice's funeral at one of the lunches he helped create, friends said the love that once filled his now empty seat will endure.
"We just need to love one and another," Fletcher said. "It sounds like a simple statement, but it's the hardest quest for mankind."
A quest the Brotherhood will continue one plate at a time.