MANATEE -- By 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the line of people who wanted to see Trayon “Geezy” Bernard Goff Sr., 25, for the last time extended outside Abundant Favor Mortuary and stretched across the front of the building.
Inside the small sanctuary at 115 30th Ave. E., Bradenton, visitors filled all the pews, all the extra chairs set up and the entire lobby for Goff’s wake.
At the front of the mortuary, in a heavy, pewter-colored casket, Goff lay in repose.
He looked so alive, just sleeping or resting, that many who walked in stared in stunned disbelief.
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“He looked great,” said Rod Brooks, a friend from Rubonia.
Goff was clad in a No. 22 Los Angeles Lakers’ purple, gold and white game jersey, the kind worn by his favorite Laker player, forward Kobe Bryant.
Photographs of people he loved lined the inside of his casket.
People stood before Goff, held each other up and cried in great sobs or silently.
In all, several hundred, including many from Goff’s nearby hometown of Rubonia, just north of Palmetto, attended the open casket viewing of one of the two victims of the horrific Club Elite mass shooting in downtown Palmetto Saturday.
Services for Goff are scheduled 10 a.m. Saturday at Bible Baptist Church, 1720 6th Ave. W., Palmetto with burial to follow at Rubonia Cemetery.
Visitation for the other victim of Saturday’s shooting, Gwenette Latrice Matthews, 38, is set for 5-8 p.m. today at Life Changers World International Ministry, 404 10th Ave. W., Palmetto. Services are 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul MB Church, 525 9th Ave. E., Bradenton. She will be interred at Skyway Memorial Gardens.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office had several marked cars parked discreetly near the mortuary Thursday for Goff’s wake, but there was no tension in the air on this clear night of soft breezes.
“There were no incidents,” Brooks said. “It was peaceful.”
On this night, several said, respect for the dead and for mourning in peace took hold of all who came by.
“The way he looks tonight is how he looked all the time,” said Pedro Toribio Jr., who made the trip from Rubonia to see a man who he had known since diaper days and loved like a brother. “But I don’t think he ever went to a Laker game.”
Dressed in a pretty green print dress, Kenyata Johnson, 34, Goff’s cousin, whose mother and Goff’s mother are sisters, sat in the back of the sanctuary.
“He loved to take his 5-year-old daughter, Trayonni, shopping for purses,” Johnson said. “He loved cars and kids and loved his family. He is really nothing like he has been portrayed. Yes, he sold drugs and, yes, he was a felon. But there was much more to him.
“When I was 10 or 11, I would go over to my great-grandmother, Leona Lowman’s house in Rubonia, after school at Palm View Elementary,” Johnson said. “She would say, ‘Take Trayon with you.’ He hung out with my friends when he was just 2 and he always fit in. He had goodness about him. His mother, Tiki Faison, and his father, Wendall Faison, put Christ in his life. He later went down the wrong path, but he knew the right path and he taught little kids he knew to go down the right path.”
Toribio came with his mother, Kendall, sisters Monica and Yesenia and two nephews, Joseph Sosa, 7, and Johnathan Sosa, 5.
Joseph and Johnathan froze behind Pedro and were at first afraid to come close to the casket.
But, after a few moments, they realized it was just the man they knew and they were OK.
“Nice, happy, respectful young man with a big beautiful smile,” a tearful Kendall Toribio said. “In Rubonia, every mother is the mother of every kid. Trayon was just one of the kids.”
“I remember playing kickball barefooted with him at Rubonia City Center,” Monica Toribio said. “Now, seeing him in the casket, I feel sadness, pain. It brings back memories.”
Monica’s sister, Elizabeth, died at age 14 in a terrible car crash in Rubonia six years ago.
The family remembers going through this same experience back then.
“The kids in the neighborhood loved his cars,” Pedro Toribio said of Goff. “They called him the Transformer Car Man because his cars looked like the robots from Transformers.”
In the back of the sanctuary, Johnson was talking about Goff when it hit her suddenly, in a tremendous tsunami of finality, that he was really dead.
“I will never see him again,” she began crying out, sobbing louder and louder until those six words bounced off the ceiling and echoed back on everyone present.
Shirley Brewer of Abundant Favor came over with a box of tissues and a small hand fan and began fanning her in a loving away.
Brewer then bent way down and whispered, “It’s OK. He is in a much better place, away from all of this.”
Rallies set to defuse violence
Several events are slated to make a statement against bloodshed in the community:
n A candle-light vigil is scheduled at 8 p.m. today in front of Club Elite, 704 10th St. W., Palmetto The rally is dedicated to stopping violence in the area and is being put on by a group of concerned citizens, said Rubonia’s Rod Brooks. Information: 813-417-3770.
n A rally is scheduled 5 p.m. Saturday in front of the Palmetto Police Department station, 1115 10th St. W., Palmetto, to push back against violence. Church congregations, local politicians, law enforcement officers, victims and civilians are asked to join in. Information: 225-9778.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.