Job Corps victims of crash are buried 2 young men praised for spirit, initiative

February 25, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Dante A. Swain and Carlos M. Byrd -- two of eight Job Corps students killed Feb. 16 in the fiery train crash in Silver Spring -- were remembered yesterday for their youthful exuberance and their once-promising futures.

Hundreds of mourners said goodbye in separate West Baltimore churches a short distance apart. Many attended both services, including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who praised the young men, both 18, for working toward better lives.

Mr. Swain had completed carpentry training and had received a long-sought General Educational Development high school equivalency diploma in the Job Corps program.

Mr. Byrd, also known as Little Sterling, was working on his GED, nurse's aide certification and driver's license.

"He was a jolly, humble type of young man," said George Jackson, a National Park Service officer who was Mr. Byrd's dormitory manager and accompanied several students to his memorial service at the Cornerstone Church of Christ on Park Heights Avenue. "I'm going to miss him. He was a nice boy," said Goldie Alexander, 21, of Pittsburgh, who had known Mr. Byrd for five months at the Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Jobs Corps campus.

Flowers covered Mr. Byrd's blue casket. A handful of white-and-blue balloons and a white teddy bear perched nearby were reminders of his youth.

The service ended with a moving rendition of the song "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye," which brought tears to many eyes.

Mr. Byrd is survived by his parents, Rosa and Goldon Byrd III of Baltimore; a sister, Lisa Byrd; two brothers, Robert Byrd and Tony Winegard; and his dog, Butch.

In addition to caring for his pet, he was known for nurturing a variety of animals, including a guinea pig, gerbils, a snake and birds, his family said.

His dreams included going to college and driving a gold Acura Legend.

To Denise Trusty of Baltimore and her son, Daron Phillips, 16, a Job Corps student, it was important to attend both funerals.

tTC "It's rough," said Ms. Trusty, whose son was supposed to be on the MARC train the night it collided with the Amtrak train but who, at the last minute, stayed in Harper's Ferry. "I've been in touch with the mothers. My heart goes out to them. I have my son. They don't have theirs."

At Mount Zion Apostolic Faith Church on Liberty Heights Avenue, a dozen helium-filled, white balloons created an arch over Mr. Swain's flower-laden wood casket. Friends and relatives recalled him as a quiet, well-mannered young man who always said, "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am."

A lifelong member of the church, Mr. Swain played drums for the Zioneers Gospel Singers, who offered rousing songs during the service. But basketball was his favorite pastime.

"He was on the varsity team," said Job Corps student Kevin Fisher, 22, of West Baltimore. "He was an uplifting, real person. He kept us strong."

Mr. Swain is survived by his parents, Marjorie and John A. Swain Jr. of Baltimore; a brother, John A. Swain III; a sister, Marquetta A. Swain; and his grandparents, Annie E. Wilson and Della Swain of Windsor, N.C.

"He was like a son to me," Douglas McNeil, a church elder, told the congregation. "Dante will be a memory in our lives for a long time."

The two deaths inspired Job Corps student, Edward Brown, 22, of Baltimore to write a poem that was read at Mr. Swain's service. Titled "Free," Mr. Brown's words offered this solace: "They're not lost. They're free. Free from sickness, pain and hurt."

On one of winter's sunniest days, both teens were buried at the same cemetery -- King Memorial Park in Woodlawn.

Services also were held yesterday for another Job Corps victim, Lakeisha Marshall, 17, of Capitol Heights, Prince George's County.

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