We know of Michael A. Bates, Jr. as the victim of a senseless crime---the man who raised his hands to comply with three robbers' demands only to have one of them shoot him in the neck.
But those who learned from the affable chef at Stratford University's culinary school will remember him for changing their lives.
"He made you believe in yourself when you didn't really believe in yourself," said Walter Frazier.
A former White House chef during three different administrations, Edwin Scholly took Bates under his wing as a teaching assistant.
"We fed. We taught a lot of people,” Scholly said. “To those who made it possible, I want to thank each and every one of you. He meant a lot to me. Thank you."
They gathered together sending dozens of blue balloons skyward in his memory, but as much as they wanted to celebrate Bates' life, they could not ignore the tragic way he died.
"We all are going to stand together to find out who did this, because it was a coward,” said Cheri Henry, “We as black people... just not only black people, just people in general... have to learn how to stand together and bind together to become one to stop what's going on in our community, because this is not right. He was a peaceful soul."
It was a point not lost upon Bates' mother and other family members as they tried in vain to set aside their grief to share in the memorial.
But they remained silent, lost for words after suffering the worst kind of loss.
"I tried to think of the right words to say, and I just want you all to hear this,” said Melinda Williams, “Time for me to go now. I won't say goodbye. Look for me in rainbows way up in the sky."
A Navy vet, Bates had been planning to start up a non-profit to teach veterans how to become chefs.
His fellow chefs at Stratford are now planning to establish a scholarship in his name.