STAUNTON, Va (WVIR) -
Hundreds in the Staunton community gathered Monday night to remember and honor the life of Julian Parrott.
Last week, Parrott's body was found along Gypsy Hill Park golf course. A commonwealth's attorney is trying to charge the 16-year-old murder suspect as an adult. That means if he is convicted of first-degree murder, he could face life in prison. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing May 28.
Those who knew Parrott were shocked and saddened at the sudden way his life came to an end. His friends say Gypsy Hill Park, where his body was found, was one of his favorite places - and others shouldn't stop enjoying it.
"Everybody seemed to know him, and once you meet him, you never forget him,” said Margaret McElroy, who owns a shop in downtown Staunton.
Friends and acquaintances describe 26-year-old Parrott as a fixture of the Staunton community: friendly, gentle, and always moving.
"A sense of wonder that I've never encountered before in my life. And an appreciation for absolutely everything. And everyone. There wasn't anyone that he didn't want to be friends with,” said Rebecca Schneider, who owns Turtle Lane gift boutique, where Parrott worked.
At Monday night's vigil, Pastor Rick Gilmartin said, "If you look around you what you're going to see is a very, very diverse group of people. You're going to see the community of Staunton. Julian Parrott was a guy who brought others together. He did so in life and he's done so now."
Parrott was known for his volunteer efforts, especially his advocacy with the Mosby Foundation for abused and neglected animals. Most of all, he loved the Gypsy Hill Park. He frequently walked dogs there and cheered on the Staunton Braves at games.
Those who knew him say Parrott say the life-long resident of Staunton reached out to everyone. "Just showing up walking into a room full of strangers and becoming your best friend was kind of normal," Gilmartin said.
"I just would sit down and talk to a random person and ask if they remember him and they would shed a tear just because he would bring up a random story just to try to get somebody to laugh," said Lesha Arey, a junior at Lee High School.
The community has felt that loss. Gilmartin says this past Sunday was a hard day for the church.
"I joke about the fact Julian would answer every rhetorical question I would give in a sermon. That absence was felt," he said.
With the Julian Parrott Fund, organizers are raising money to help the family cover the costs of the funeral. Beyond that, they would like to see security upgrades - like lighting and surveillance cameras - brought to the Gypsy Hill Park. Those interested in making a donation can do so at the City National Bank of Staunton.
Story after story shared Monday night told of the love Parrott shared wherever he went. While many questions about how his life ended remain unanswered, it's clear he will be missed by many.
Parrott's memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 18 at the Robert E. Lee High School auditorium in Staunton. It is open to the public.