Slain barber's family,friends gather to wonder why

December 03, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Another Maryland family will bury another victim of violence today.

It's a barber this time, a nice man from Catonsville named James Brodie -- 58 years old, admired by just about everyone who knew him, and shot dead without explanation Saturday while cutting a customer's hair.

Last night, at a big church in West Baltimore packed with the crying and the confused, yet another preacher tried to comfort the survivors and make sense of what makes no sense.

"God, we're hurting," prayed the Rev. Marvis P. May Sr., pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church at the corner of North Fremont Avenue and West Lafayette Street. "We're disappointed and we're mad . . . but we still trust you."

Said another minister who shared the altar: "Lord, we're trying through all our tears to thank you for the privilege of allowing us to know James Brodie lo these many years. We need you, Lord. The world's in terrible shape, and we don't have the answer."

To which many mourners cried out "Amen," and others just kept sobbing.

Baltimore, where Mr. Brodie's funeral service was conducted, was home to 305 homicides this year, as of last night.

In Baltimore County, where the victim will be buried at 10:30 this morning at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills, 38 people have been killed so far, an all-time high.

County police have no suspects in the murder of James Ernest Brodie, who on the Saturday after Thanksgiving was shot in the chest in his Winters Lane shop.

Mr. Brodie lived in an apartment above the well-kept business.

His customer, 20-year-old Michael Selwyn Peters of Baltimore died after being shot in the head.

Police believe the key to the mystery is an unknown woman who walked into the barbershop a few minutes before the 6 a.m. attack, may have gestured toward the chair where Mr. Peters sat when the gunman walked in, and disappeared before the shooting began.

After listening to the choir sing ". . . some glad morning, when this life is over, I'll fly away . . . ," the congregation watched Mr. Brodie'sbowling buddies carry his flowers to a hearse.

Known to his friends simply as "Brodie," the retired school custodian who loved to bowl and who cut hair around Catonsville for 30 years was decribed by his mourners, again and again, as a nice guy.

"Very nice, do anything for you -- you know, very friendly," said William Burwell, who was raised with Mr. Brodie in Franklinton, N.C., and came down from Boston for the funeral.

"A nice man, real nice," said a man who bowled with Mr. Brodie at Colt Lanes in Woodlawn and had his hair cut by him "for as long as I can remember."

"You'd sit in his chair and talk a little sports, talk a little politics," said the friend, who did not want his name printed in the paper. "We talked about how we did with our bowling that week.

"Brodie was a terrific bowler, I think he carried about a 170 average."

Trying to soothe the nearly 700 mourners, Mr. May told a parable based on grammar.

If life is a sentence, he said, a period does not come at the end of it.

Nor does a question mark, nor an exclamation point.

"Death is a comma, and a sentence can't end on a comma," said Mr. May.

"The word on the street is that Brodie's dead. No! No!

"Death is not an end, it's a doorway that leads us into life. Physically you may never get your haircut by him again, but spiritually Brodie still lives.

"When you drive down Route 40 and you pass that barbershop and you see his son or his family, think about a comma. . . ."

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