A young man who inspired his brother and many around him recently passed away in his dorm room.
Rakeem Sweezy, of Shelby, was found dead Friday, Dec. 8, in his room at Brevard College. The official cause of death has not yet been announced to family, but they knew he had been sick and sought medical treatment for nausea and vomiting.
His younger brother, Raquan, said he knew something was wrong when Rakeem, often called Sweezy, didn’t return calls or texts. He just didn’t know how wrong.
A senior at Shelby High School, Raquan said his classmates have been saddened and touched by his brother’s death.
Sweezy graduated from Shelby High two years ago, serving as class president his senior year. Ever the active student, he quickly got involved in many areas in college.
He was named freshman of the year in May 2017, was an active member of the Brevard College Theatre Program, as well as the Campus Activities Board, and he became a resident advisor in his freshman year, according to an article in the school newspaper, The Clarion.
At 20, Sweezy had turned his attention to college life, but his death still rocked his five siblings, large family and students at Shelby High.
Raquan said kids who weren’t even in high school when his brother went there knew Sweezy and have come up to him to talk. It’s tough, but it speaks to who his brother was, he said.
“I felt like I was alone, and I’m glad he touched as many people as he did,” Raquan said.
Shelby High senior Gavin Tribble said he and Sweezy were on the varsity football team and the chamber choir together.
“He was a great person, role model, and inspiration to every single person he encountered,” Tribble said.
Tribble said Sweezy inspired him to run for student body president, an election he in turn won.
“Rakeem had the heart of a lion and roared everywhere he went. His spirit and ambition to help other people was unparalleled,” he said.
Students at Brevard gathered last weekend for a vigil and to share memories of their fallen classmate.
People in Shelby will gather at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the Shelby High football field to release balloons as a tribute to him.
The family hopes to raise enough money to have a large funeral, and they have created a GoFundMe page to pay for it. More than $3,500 has been donated so far. The family says it needs about $4,000 more to cover expenses.
Raquan said his brother inspired him in life by never holding back and always striving to do more. Somehow, he’s even inspired him in death, the teen said.
The two had recently talked about wanting to get the whole family together again like in days past.
“In death, he did that. I have peace. He did what he wanted to do,” Raquan said.
Sweezy’s large family gathered Thursday afternoon at a relative’s house, children running around and some shooting hoops. They pulled out photos of the young man who brought them all together.
Tribble said his unofficial mentor is a tough loss.
“My motto is that when one lion roars, we all roar, and Rakeem was sure a true depiction of what it truly means to not only be a Golden Lion, but a great person in general,” he said. “He will surely be missed, but I am certain his spirit will live forever.”
Diane Turbyfill can be reached at 704-669-3334 and Twitter.com/ShelbyStarDiane