Earlier this school year 8-year-old Michael Sylvester turned in an essay on his hero, who happened to be his uncle Albino (AJ) D. Fernandes Jr.
“He wants to play football like his uncle AJ,” Michael’s mother, Shannon Sylvester of Rogers Road, East Falmouth, said yesterday afternoon.
These kinds of tributes, large and small, have been pouring in for Mr. Fernandes ever since he died last October, jumping from the car while his mother, Lisa V. Rose, was driving down Library Lane near the East Falmouth branch of the Falmouth Public Library.
Falmouth police later deemed the 18-year-old’s death a tragic accident after he suffered a head injury caused by striking a tree on the shoulder of Library Lane. There his friends and family have made a makeshift memorial consisting of stuffed teddy bears, necklaces, candles, photos, fake flowers and footballs, representing the sport Mr. Fernandes loved and played in high school.
“I’ve gone there, but can only stay for a short time unless the site needs to be cleaned up and I can sidetrack myself,” said Ms. Sylvester who is Mr. Fernandes’s older sister.
A year removed from her brother’s death, she said, family and friends are still having difficulties understanding why his life was cut so short.
Her means of coping has been to keep herself busy, trying to avoid the thoughts that inevitably arise when a tragedy like this occurs. “If I was to really sit down and think about it I wouldn’t be able to function,” she said. “I ignore it more because I don’t want to face the issue. Still I think about him every day.”
So do many in Falmouth who crossed paths with him. Her mother, she said, has been perhaps the hardest hit by her son’s death. “She has moments of good times throughout the day, but other than that she is still struggling.”
Others have used his death, like Mr. Fernandes’ nephew Michael has, as inspiration for creativity.
Two former classmates Levi Bazilio of Falmouth, a senior at Falmouth High School, and Isaac J. Muise of Pembroke, have penned songs about their fallen friend.
Levi turned his ode “A Smile is Contagious” into a music video against the backdrop of photos and home movies of Mr. Fernandes that was posted the same month he died and has amassed more than 21,000 views on YouTube since that time.
Isaac’s piece, dubbed a “Letter to A.J. Fernandes”, has had similar success with more than 15,000 views. Isaac raps in the song as photos of his friend disappear into the next:
Man, I got the news and I nearly had a heart attack
My eyes watered up as I heard it
Man, you didn't deserve it
I can still picture you on the back of the bus with a smile
Yeah, yeah, just laughing it up cause you were always so happy
And the smile was contagious
And everybody loved you and that love never faded...
This past Friday that love was on display during a remembrance of Mr. Fernandes at Bigelow Marine Park on Scranton Avenue, at which friends and family, including his mother, father, Albino S. Fernandes Sr. of East Falmouth, older sister Alexandra Coffey of Cohasset, and older brother, John Coffey of Cohasset, were all present.
Ms. Sylvester, who organized the event, estimated that more than 100 people were in attendance at the memorial which included a slide show of pictures featuring Mr. Fernandes as well as remarks from the Reverend David V. Calhoun of the John Wesley United Methodist Church.
While there were moments of sadness, Ms. Sylvester said, there was also happier memories of her brother’s larger than life personality. “He was always fun, always laughing and always smiling,” she said.
As to what his future held, Ms. Sylvester was unsure. At the time of his death he was working as a prep cook at La Cucina sul Mare, a job he truly enjoyed. The day before the accident the police reported that he had picked up copies of his academic records so he could apply to colleges. “He was trying to get on his own two feet and start his own life and figure out his own career path,” his sister said.