In Camden, saving memories of lost loved ones brick by brick

Some of the bricks for homicide victims. A local business owner has been laying them since 2007.
Some of the bricks for homicide victims. A local business owner has been laying them since 2007. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 25, 2014

The red bricks are laid out carefully on the corner of East State Street and Harrison Avenue, the black engravings on them reminders of lives lost in Camden.

"May the angels watch over you," one brick reads. On it and others are the names and ages of Camden's homicide victims and others who died tragically in recent years.

Here, their families find a place of solace.

Bill Hargrove, 69, a longtime Camden resident and owner of W. Hargrove Demolition, started laying the bricks outside his company's building in 2007. Like others in Camden, he has friends who have lost family members to the violence. The bricks, he said, serve as a physical memory of that person - something families can put their hands on.

"I've seen a lot of tearful reunions out here," Hargrove said Monday, when about 25 new bricks were laid.

The bricks - Hargrove estimates there are several hundred, or "too many to count" - rekindle memories of the crosses that Stop Trauma on People, an antiviolence group, placed in front of Camden City Hall in 2012.

The crosses stirred controversy because of the image they gave the already violence-torn city.

The bricks laid by Hargrove offer a different vibe, said Angel Cordero, a Camden community activist and former mayoral candidate. He came Monday to lend support to the family of a recent homicide victim whose name was just enshrined.

"The crosses were more of a symbol of being mad at the elected official," Cordero said, or "being mad at the world.

"This symbolizes peace."

The bricks cost about $40 each and come from a Florida company called Polar Engraving. Hargrove pays the bill.

The years that many of the bricks cover are among the city's deadliest. In 2012, Camden had a record 67 homicides. Last year, there were 57.

"I never, never expected it to get as large as it is," Hargrove said of the memorial, adding that he thinks police are doing a good job trying to cut down the violence.

Some of the names on the bricks represent victims of the city's more notorious slayings and other tragic deaths.

Among them are 9-year-old Jamarr Cruz, beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend in March 2009, and Franklin Parker, 36, who was shot dead while trying to escape a fracas at a fried chicken store in 2012.

They also include Anibal Cruz, 11; Daniel Agosto, 6, and Jesstin Pagan, 5 - the three boys who became trapped inside the trunk of a car in 2005 and were found dead after family and police frantically searched for them.

Others on the bricks are more recent homicide victims, such as Ernesto Torres, 22, who was shot to death in April.

His mother, Cary Soldevila, had come to see the bricks in the past. She has a friend whose son is among those killed.

But on Monday afternoon, she came for one of the newly placed bricks - her son's. She and other family members placed small pink and white flowers around it.

"It means a lot to us," she said. "It means a lot to all of us. Just being able to come by and knowing that he wasn't just a number."


mboren@phillynews.com

856-779-3829 @borenmc

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