A day after Ade Wole Ruffin died in a car accident near his Columbia home, scores of friends and family members gathered yesterday at the home of his mother, Bobi Ruffin, talking, laughing and telling stories, recalling a young man, bound for college, with so much promise.
"I never really knew how many people loved Ade," his mother said yesterday as she arranged for her son's funeral. "There were so many people here last night, some telling stories, some just listening. I've learned things about my son I didn't even know."
Four of Ruffin's friends, who were passengers in his Honda Accord when it struck a tree near Governor Warfield and Little Patuxent parkways, were injured and sent to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
Ruffin's cousin Waliyuddin Rabb, 17, was in critical condition yesterday; Etienne Tolbert, 17, was in fair but stable condition; Varney Diggs, 16, was in serious but stable condition; and Maurice Alfred Johnson, 21, was released last evening. Howard County police are investigating what caused Ruffin's Accord to run off the road about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Those who knew Ruffin were not shy with stories about how the 19-year-old Wilde Lake High School graduate touched so many of those who around him.
"Ade could make any situation a good situation," said Andre Johnson, Ruffin's best friend, who lives in New Jersey where they both grew up. "I could be so mad at something, and Ade would say one thing and I'd be laughing. He will always be missed."
Ruffin wore a number of hats. He was a chess champion and a video game wizard, his mother said. An aficionado of rap music, he also loved art. He always chose family first, especially when it came to his mother and sister, Akili, Bobi Ruffin said.
Ade was set to leave tomorrow for West Virginia University in Morgantown, a dream he had since he was a boy, his mother said.
"A lot of his friends were in college, and he was so excited to spread his wings and jump out of the nest," Bobi Ruffin said. "He liked challenges and teachers that made him think, and I think he was looking forward to the challenge of college life."
Ruffin lived in Columbia for a year, but Wilde Lake classmates who gathered outside his home said they'll remember that his smile was rivaled only by his charm.
"There was something about him that was just so different from other guys," said Tsega Girma. "The first time he met my mom, he hugged her. He was so good like that, making people feel good about themselves."
Ade's father, Alton, died of cancer when Ade was 6, and Bobi Ruffin said she takes comfort that her husband and her son are together again.
"One evening he came home with a tattoo on his arm," she said. "I told him `Ade, what happens 20 years from now when you don't want that on your arm anymore?' He said, `Mom, that's why I got something I'll always be proud of.' He showed me the tattoo, a cross with his father's name and `rest in peace' written next to it. They were so close, I know he's with his father now."
Johnson, who also lost his father while growing up, said he and Ade used to talk about getting tattoos with their fathers' names, but his plans recently changed.
"Ade was like my brother," Johnson said. "I'm getting a tattoo with his name on my arm. That's how important he is to me. I know his father, my father and him are looking down from heaven together."