‘A TEACHER OF LIFE’

Mount Ver­non neigh­bors and fam­ily say good­bye to home­less vet­eran

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - By Lil­lian Reed

“Dwight was a prophet and he was our pro­tec­tor.”

More than 100 mourn­ers and fam­ily mem­bers filled Mount Ver­non’s Em­manuel Epis­co­pal Church on Satur­day for a me­mo­rial ser­vice honor­ing Dwight Clax­ton, a home­less vet­eran and beloved fig­ure in the neigh­bor­hood.

Clax­ton was found Jan. 17 by po­lice hud­dled in the en­trance of a neigh­bor­hood restau­rant. Friends said he died of “be­ing home­less in Amer­ica.” He was 53 years old.

The Navy vet­eran’s death sparked an out­pour­ing of grief and re­gret among Mount Ver­non neigh­bors, who flocked to so­cial me­dia to share color­ful mem­o­ries and piece to­gether fu­neral ar­range­ments.

Some of Em­manuel’s con­gre­gants had been friendly with Clax­ton, who slept many nights on a nearby Charles Street stoop. March Fu­neral Homes do­nated its ser­vices and a burial plot for the man.

How­ever soli­tary Clax­ton’s death may have ap­peared, his me­mo­rial ser­vice drew dozens of peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing a di­verse range of ages, races and back­grounds.

Young peo­ple shuf­fled into pews, some with skate­boards in hand. Fel­low veter­ans saluted Clax­ton’s cas­ket as it was car­ried up the cen­ter aisle of the church. And alumni of the nearby Bal­ti­more School for the Arts ar­rived from far­away states to pay their re­spects.

Clax­ton’s mother and sib­lings were touched to see how many peo­ple’s lives were touched by him, his sis­ter, Es­ther Clax­ton-Nes­bitt, said fol­low­ing the ser­vice.

“We’re not sur­prised,” she said, as her brother had al­ways been a fun-lov­ing and out­go­ing per­son. “It’s just hard,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Clax­ton was born the eighth of nine chil­dren on Hal­loween 1966 in the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands’ St. Croix to Rose Ad­ina Clax­ton and Ge­orge Hu­bert Clax­ton. His fa­ther died when he was 7 years old, Clax­ton-Nes­bitt wrote in the me­mo­rial ser­vice pro­gram.

Clax­ton at­tended St. Croix Cen­tral High School and grew up a de­voted fol­lower of Je­sus Christ in the Fred­erik­sted Bap­tist Church, the pro­gram states.

Many mourn­ers re­mem­bered how Clax­ton could of­ten be heard through­out the cen­tral Bal­ti­more neigh­bor­hood pray­ing loudly to “Je­ho­vah.” Oth­ers shared sto­ries of times when the vet­eran doled out sage coun­sel — or sim­ply of­fered up his own faith when a friend had lost his or her own.

“Let me tell you some­thing about the Dwight that I knew. Dwight was a prophet and he was our pro­tec­tor,” the Rev. Anne Marie Richards, Em­manuel’s rec­tor, said at the be­gin­ning of the fu­neral ser­mon. “He was a teacher of life.”

In 1983, Clax­ton moved to Worces­ter, Mas­sachusetts, and en­listed in the U.S. Navy. He was sta­tioned on the air­craft car­rier USS Dwight D. Eisen­hower, where he dreamed of learn­ing about planes and as­pired to be a pi­lot.

He also en­joyed work­ing with com­put­ers, pur­su­ing and re­ceiv­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in com­puter re­pairs, ac­cord­ing to the pro­gram.

Over the last two decades, Clax­ton lived in Vir­ginia and Mary­land, where he made many friends, the pro­gram states.

Mar­ried cou­ple Chris­tian Gott and Ni­ra­jan Khakurel’s Ger­man shep­herd, named Baby, never failed to catch Clax­ton’s at­ten­tion on their daily walks around the neigh­bor­hood for the past five

The Rev. Anne Marie Richards, rec­tor of Em­manuel Epis­co­pal Church

years. “She used to bark at him, but he didn’t care,” Khakurel said.

Clax­ton was also re­mem­bered for be­ing friendly with stu­dents who at­tended school in Mount Ver­non. Dur­ing the ser­mon, Richards shared a friend’s anec­dote about how Clax­ton car­ried in his pocket a worn school pa­per a stu­dent once wrote about him.

Bal­ti­more School of the Arts grad­u­ates Juquon Can­non and Ju­lian Owens stood with friends on the side­walk out­side the church and laughed about how Clax­ton used to rap with the boys in the park af­ter class.

“He was al­ways around,” Can­non said. “We’d get out of school and just talk and rap. I asked him about his home­less­ness and how he got to that space. He’d never go into de­tail, but he’d tell us how we could avoid it.”

The 22-year-old re­gret­ted not do­ing more to help Clax­ton find sta­bil­ity in his life, he said.

“I feel like I failed him,” Can­non said. “The fact that you see this many peo­ple come out for [the me­mo­rial ser­vice], I feel like we could have helped Dwight.”

Still, Owens re­called Clax­ton’s habit of as­suag­ing passersby who apol­o­gized for not be­ing able to do­nate some spare change for a vet­eran.

A big smile would spread across the man’s face as he’d re­peat, “Don’t be sorry, don’t be sorry.”

“He had faith,” Owens said. “It’s mind-blow­ing to me that he’s gone, but I’m glad he’s in a bet­ter place.”

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Rose Clax­ton looks at the cas­ket of her son, Dwight Clax­ton, dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of his life at Em­manuel Epis­co­pal Church.

Clax­ton

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