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Final funeral for Tops mass shooting victim, celebrating the life of Ruth Whitfield

Ruth Whitfield
Posted at 8:17 PM, May 28, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — More than 750 people filled Mt. Olivet Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the life of Ruth Whitfield, the oldest of the ten victims killed at Tops two weeks ago.

"She loved us unconditionally," said Garnell Whitfield Jr. about his mother. "She supported us."

In addition to hundreds of family members and friends, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff flew from Washington DC to memorialize Whitfield. Also at the service was attorney Ben Crump, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Brian Higgins, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, New York State Senator Timothy Kennedy, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and others.

The vice president was not scheduled to speak, but Reverend Al Sharpton insisted during his eulogy.

"I'm going to break protocol," said Sharpton, before walking to another microphone in the pulpit. "We should insist that we hear from the vice president of the United States of America."

Harris was received with a standing ovation as she walked up to speak. She spoke for close to five minutes.

"The pain this family is feeling right now, and nine other families here in Buffalo, I cannot even begin to express our collected pain as a nation what you are feeling in such an extreme way," said Harris.

"She didn't deserve to die," said Garnell Whitfield Jr.

Along with being a loving wife, Ruth Whitfield is survived by her four children, Robin, Angela, Garnell Jr., and Raymond. She was also a grandmother to nine grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. Whitfield was loved by dozens of cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

"She had been tending her seeds all her life," Garnell Jr. said with his hand over his chest. "She was taking care of us her whole life, she knew what she was doing."

Whitfield was born in Jackson, Mississippi on April 7, 1936. Family said growing up was challenging, and that led her to not attend school, but she became intelligent and articulate. Later in life Whitfield achieved a lifelong dream, earning her GED proudly.

Whitfield loved cooking for her family, making homemade syrup and biscuits and macaroni and cheese. She also loved fishing, camping, casinos and getting the best deals at thrift stores.

Whitfield's family said she was a selfless leader, and a proud black woman who advocated for her family.

She married Garnell Whitfield Sr. on July 1, 1954. The vice president recognized Whitfield Sr., Ruth's husband of 68 years, during her speech. Whitfield Sr., who has vascular dementia, received a standing ovation.

Ruth Whitfield went to visit her husband at his nursing home, before she went to Tops two weeks ago. She is remembered as a soulmate and caregiver to her husband, who also suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to family.

"We are stronger than those who would try to hurt us think that they are," emphasized Harris. "A true measure of strength is not who you beat down, it's based on who you lift up."

"We will not allow small people to create fear in our communities," said Harris. "We will not be afraid to stand up for what is right, to speak truth."

Harris met with the Whitfield family and the families of other victims before the funeral service, and went to the Tops memorial after the funeral service.