Friends of Delbert "Shorty" Belton gathered at the Sportsman Café and Lounge Friday morning, his favorite place to enjoy a meal, to reminisce about his life while struggling to comprehend his tragic death.
Belton, 88, died Thursday morning at Sacred Heart Medical Center after being assaulted by two suspects in the parking lot of the Eagles Lodge Wednesday evening. One suspect, 16-year-old Demetrius Glenn, is in custody and is facing charges for Belton's killing. The second suspect, 16-year-old Kenan Adams-Kinard, remains at large for the deadly attack.
The Sportsman Cafe on North Market was Shorty's favorite place to eat with his friends, and all day Friday people came into the restaurant to share stories about Shorty and laugh and, for at least one meal, put aside their feelings of anger shared not only by the local community but the entire nation.
"It makes me angry, it makes me upset," Sportsman Café manager Helen Brooks said. "I just can't understand how someone and especially how young these guys were, could do something like that."
Brooks remembered the 88-year-old WWII veteran was always smiling, though those that knew him well understood the toll his service in the Pacific had taken on him.
"You could see the sadness in his eyes. You knew the man had been through a lot," Brooks said.
But there was also something else about Shorty. He had a great capacity for caring for others.
"He was so caring he just … the man would do anything for anyone to try and help them out, whether he knew them or not. I don't think he had ever met a stranger."
Longtime friend Greg Binder learned late Thursday night that Shorty had died. He still hasn't quite processed the fact his friend is gone.
"I was just kind of sick to my stomach all night," Binder said. "He didn't deserve that. And yeah we are all going to go at some point in time but not like that."
Binder added that Belton's generous nature was part of who he was.
"Helping people, doing things for other folks, always putting himself second, always had a smile and definitely didn't deserve what he got," he said.
Now his friends and family will grieve his death and wait for justice and hopefully learn what could possess anyone to hurt a man who only had love to give.
"He fought for them to have the right to kill him. That's so wrong," Brooks said.
At the Fraternal Order of Eagles Friday people gathered to pay respects Shorty, where a makeshift memorial is slowly growing in his memory, people who knew him, as well as strangers who had never met him, were dropping off flowers, cards and messages one by one to honor his memory.
Many people who didn't know the veteran said they felt they needed to do something for a man who suffered such a tragic end.
"We are so appreciative of everybody coming in and giving flowers for Shorty. He was an awesome person. He hadn't been a member long but he became a part of the family," Clara Rood with the Fraternal Order of Eagles said.
The Eagles says it has not set up a fund or established a location for people who want to donate to Shorty's memorial, but to check out their website for more information.