CHARLESTON, MO (KFVS) - Family and friends gather on Monday, July 17 to remember a man found shot in Whipple Park in Charleston, Missouri.
People gathered for at 5 p.m. at Charleston Middle School for a prayer vigil and balloon release.
According to Charleston Department of Public Safety Director Robert Hearnes, officers heard about an unresponsive man on July 13 at around 1:50 p.m. at the picnic shelter at Whipple Park.
When officers arrived, he said they found a man had been shot. The man was identified as 78-year-old Joe Anderson, of Charleston. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police are investigating his death as a homicide.
Whipple Park is located on Beasley Park Road near the intersections of MO 105 and I-57.
Anderson's brother said he always had a smile on his face and will be dearly missed.
"This morning I woke up, and I was hoping that I was dreaming, and that I'd run up on him," said Anderson's brother Floyd Wade Sr.
Pastor Wade can't believe his brother is gone.
Wade said his brother would go to Whipple Park often.
"He could find that peace, and just chill and relax and get his thoughts together," Wade said.
When he got the call that his brother was killed, he said it was too much to take.
"Why? Why would anyone feel like they have to do that to him?" Wade said.
Anderson was a well-known and loved member of Charleston's community and a crossing guard at the middle school.
"Sometimes all we had time to do was wave at each other. no matter what. He was there," Wade said.
The superintendent of Charleston Schools, Dr. Tammy Lupardus, said the students fondly referred to the victim as "Mr. Joe." he served as a maintenance man for years. After he retired, Mr. Joe returned to the school district as a school crossing guard because he loved the district and kids so much.
"Just a very beloved member of the community," Lupardus said. "The first face that kids see every morning, you know, when they're crossing the street coming to school. That friendly face, and always a wave, and a high-five, and a big smile."
Dr. Lupardus said telling the children Mr. Joe will not be coming back next year will be hard.
"All of the students really look forward every seeing his smiling face, and knowing he was going to keep them safe," Lupardus said.
Wade said he is praying for his brother's killer.
"We're hurt. We've suffered a loss, but we're also sensitive enough, and compassionate enough to know that there's something going on with them. They need help," Wade said.
He hopes they will find it in their heart to come forward.
"One way or the other justice is going to be served. It could be peaceably, but to hide, and run, that's just, there's not enough places to hide or run," Wade said.
Until that day, Wade said he will keep his brother's memory with him wherever he goes.
"I'll always look for him," Wade said.
Mississippi County Coroner Terry Parker said Anderson is a respected member of the community. He called this a senseless crime.
Chief Hearnes said on Friday, July 14 they are following up on leads but don't have a person of interest at this time.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Charleston DPS at 573-683-3737.