By SEAN BARRON
One of Curtis Shavers’ most heartfelt memories of Raymond Fife is of when they were fishing together in 1985.
The recollection, however, comes not from what 12-year-old Raymond caught, but what he uttered out of the blue.
“Me and Raymond fished together once, and he turned to me and said, ‘I love you,’” Shavers recalled, fighting back tears. “It’s something you don’t think about until after the fact. He was ahead of his time.”
Shavers was 11 then, and both were members of Warren-based Boy Scout Troop 5.
Shavers, of Warren, was among those who spoke on how Raymond impacted their lives during an event Friday marking the 25th anniversary of the Sept. 10, 1985, abduction and murder of 12-year-old Raymond in a wooded area off Palmyra Road. The 90-minute gathering at First United Methodist Church, 309 N. Park Ave., was to celebrate his life and accomplishments.
Other speakers were family members, elected officials and members of the prosecution team during the 1986 criminal trials and convictions of Timothy Combs, who received a life sentence, and Danny Lee Hill, who is on Ohio’s Death Row.
Regardless of other people’s moods, Raymond always had a knack for making them smile and laugh, Shavers told the audience of about 120, adding that the crime brought members of his Boy Scout troop closer together.
Conducting the observance and remembrance was Raymond’s mother, Miriam Fife, who began by playing a 10-minute video collage to music that captured snapshots of Raymond throughout his young life. One of the musical selections was Michael Jackson’s hit “Beat It,” one of Raymond’s favorites.
One photograph that elicited laughter was Raymond’s placing his head in his first birthday cake and getting a face full of frosting.
“I think that was a preview of what he was going to turn out like,” said Fife, victim-witness advocate for the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s office.
Also shown were Raymond in his Boy Scout uniform standing next to a tower he helped build, as well as him playing baseball, clowning with various siblings and standing next to family.
In addition to baseball, Raymond loved bowling, and it wasn’t long before he began taking lessons and excelling, his mother recalled.
“He was a natural at it,” she continued. “When he was 10, maybe 11, he won a trophy for having a high game of 178.”
Raymond had a mischievous side, but often something positive resulted, Fife said. For example, he wasn’t afraid to blurt out something witty in class, which sometimes caused his teacher to temporarily lose control of the other kids but ultimately ended with laughter from the teacher, she said.
The boy also was an animal lover who once brought home a stray puppy and, with a friend, built a makeshift shed for it because the family already had two dogs, Fife recalled, adding that the friend later took the animal.
Other memories included Raymond’s taking a bucket to catch hailstones during the May 31, 1985, tornadoes that devastated parts of Trumbull County, then freezing and planning to sell them as souvenirs “if the tornado became famous,” she said.
Shortly before his murder, Raymond and his father spent most of a day fishing at Mosquito Lake. There, they ran into Raymond’s sister Yvonne and her husband, she recalled.
“On the way home, [Raymond] said to my husband, ‘This is the best day of my life.’ The fun times will stay with me forever,” Miriam Fife added.
Crime victims’ having a greater voice, a child-assault unit in the Trumbull County prosecutor’s office and greater sensitivity toward youngsters who experience loss and trauma are among the positive changes that have resulted in part because of Raymond’s death, noted Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and common-pleas Judges Peter Kontos and W. Wyatt McKay.
The judges were prosecutors at the time of Raymond’s murder, and tried his killers.
A key ingredient in healing from such a tragedy is forgiveness, which is a choice, said Paula Lazzeri of Cortland, one of Raymond’s sisters.
Failing to do so prevents victims of crime and others from fulfilling their passions and talents, while keeping them “locked in a prison of unforgiveness,” she explained.
The Rev. Joseph Cameneti Sr., pastor of Believers Christian Fellowship Church in Warren, read two passages from I Corinthians that focus on hope and comfort for those who suffer a loss.
Remarks also came from Mayor Michael J. O’Brien, Warren schools Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Hellweg, Trumbull County Commissioner Paul Heltzel and Atty. Ned Gold of Warren.