Five white candles sat outside of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center on the night of Dec. 23, positioned around a picture of senior Jarrett Mosby.
Mosby, 21, was pronounced dead earlier that Monday. His body was found with multiple bullet wounds at 12:44 p.m. in the front seat of a car in Madison, Ill., when police responded to a call about a traffic accident.
Mosby was from Collinsville, Ill., and enrolled in the College of Business. He expected to graduate in May with a degree in business management.
Graduate assistant Jonathan Butler, who knew Mosby from the Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative, decided to set up an impromptu memorial after he heard the news. As gusts of wind blew over a frigid Columbia, Butler set up candles, flowers and a picture of Mosby in front of the center.
“The least I could do was put together a little memorial...,” Butler said. “From there, I took a picture of it and put it on Instagram and just hoped that other people would stop by and give their respects.”
It took Butler four or five hours to get the memorial ready. He said it was difficult for him to initially accept the news of Mosby’s death, and he spent a good amount of time in his house crying. He said he kept thinking about how it could have happened to him.
The memorial didn’t only help honor Mosby’s life, it helped Butler cope.
“I felt like this was something that I needed to do just to help me in my mourning process, as well as allow people the opportunity to reflect in their own ways,” Butler said.
For students who were away from campus on winter break, social media became an outlet to share condolences and memories.
“I read a couple of posts on Facebook and Twitter, and it amazed me that everybody was saying the same exact thing,” said senior Danielle James, one of Mosby’s close friends. “Everybody was saying how nice he was... He had the same impact on so many different people.”
James said she couldn’t believe it when she read about the shooting on Twitter. She eventually had to call her friends and turn on the news to confirm it was all true. It was heartbreaking to find out he was dead, James said.
It was just two weeks earlier that Mosby passed James heading into one of her finals, stopping to wish her luck on the test. The chance encounter was the last time she saw him.
“(He) made me go in with a little more confidence,” James said. “He had more confidence in his friends than we had in ourselves.”
James met Mosby when he was a freshman. Both business majors, they met at a party when Mosby introduced himself. James said he spoke about wanting to make friends at college, easing some of the freshman year awkwardness.
They continued their friendship up until Mosby’s death. He was always kind and generous, as well as a good person to talk to, James said.
“You would meet Jarrett and have a long conversation about life, about school, about anything and you would think you’ve (known) him forever,” James said. “He was a really easy person to talk to.”
James said she and Mosby loved to sit down and talk. James still remembers the time they stayed up all night studying for a final exam, eventually becoming restless and exchanging jokes.
Of course she’ll never forget the many times Mosby talked about his dreadlocks, specifically when he shocked her by sharing his plans to chop them off for graduation. James said he loved the way the long coils of hair sat on his head.
“I remember him saying that he wanted to cut his dreads off right before graduation because he wanted to fit in with the corporate world,” James said. “He was like, ‘I think I’m gonna have to cut them off because I’ve been growing them for years.’ He was really attached to his dreads.”
More than anything else, James said Mosby loved talking about a career in the world of business.
“Every time me and Jarrett were together, we always would sit there and have long talks for hours about our future and what we wanted to do,” James said. “Not only graduating, but after graduation.”
However, getting to MU was never guaranteed for Mosby, senior and close-friend Je’Von Adams-Walker said. The two came to MU from Metro East St. Louis, an area where college isn’t always an option.
“A lot of people from East St. Louis don’t go to college,” Adams-Walker said. “It’s not common, especially for African-American men.”
Adams-Walker didn’t know Mosby before MU, but he introduced himself as soon as he realized they were from the same neighborhood. He said their hometown brought them together; he said they both wanted to disprove negative stereotypes of East St. Louis men.
“We’re not supposed to be here based off of the stereotype of our city,” Adams-Walker said. “But we’re defining who we are as people and not letting our city define us.”
Adams-Walker said family also motivated Mosby in his pursuit of a degree. Mosby had two sisters, two brothers, two stepsisters and two parents, as well as a 6-year-old son, Jarrett Jr.
Everything Mosby did was for his family, Adams-Walker said.
“A lot of people say they want to go to college just so they can get a better job, so they can get better education,” Adams-Walker said. “Jarrett was going to college not only so he can better himself but so he can better his little brother and his son and his mother — his whole family.”
Senior James Brown, a close friend to Mosby, described the late student as selfless. Brown said Mosby rarely thought of himself, and he would do a favor for a friend at a moment’s notice.
The last time Brown saw Mosby was when he picked him up for work. Left without a car at the Student Recreation Complex, Brown called Mosby and asked if he could get a ride to his job. Mosby, who was at Ellis Library, didn’t hesitate to pick him up.
“That was just his spirit,” Brown said. “Anybody who needed something, he would do it.”
Mosby was also hardworking and dedicated, Brown said. If his friends didn’t know where to find him, they knew Ellis was usually a safe bet.
“Most of our conversations — like any time we talked — he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna slip into the library,’” Brown said. “That’s where his focus was ... because he just wanted to graduate; that’s all he really talked about was graduating.”
James, who was set to graduate on the same day as Mosby, said it’s going to be hard to finish out at MU without her close friend.
But James said she doesn’t want to let Mosby’s death paralyze her; she instead wants to do well next semester for him. James and a close group of her friends have set a multitude of goals for the next few months, including getting straight A’s, studying more and focusing on graduation.
“Even though it’s going to be a rough semester, we’re going to do our best — the best that we can,” James said. “We’re going to do it for Jarrett.”
James said there are a lot of things MU can do to honor Mosby. She has talked about the business school putting up a plaque in his honor or perhaps still having his name called at graduation. But the best thing students can do, James said, is remember his life.
Whether it be with a candle-lit memorial or social media tributes, James said she wants people to stop and think about the student MU lost.
“I definitely think everybody needs to just take their moment and remember him,” James said. “Remember him as he was before he left; remember him with that smile on his face, always being nice and talking to people. Remember him being who he was.”