By Paul Mullin
Westminster Choir College (WCC) freshman Justin Warfield will long be remembered for what happened to him the night of Tuesday, Oct. 16, and the following morning. But what his friends say the world doesn’t know is the most important part of the 18-year-old’s life.
Longtime family friend Michael Ritt expressed concern that the picture the media had been painting was a negative one, and stressed that this was not the real Justin.
“I would never picture him doing anything – let alone a hard drug like heroin,” Ritt told the Baltimore Sun. “He’s not this druggie type of kid.”
Ritt is the former head chorister of the Maryland State Boychoir, of which Warfield was a member. He said that the family was an extremely close one, and that Warfield’s sense of humor often held the group together.
“At dinner he would normally say grace, a repetitive thing for him, trying to say it as fast as he could so he could enjoy the delicious meals that his mother slaved over,” Ritt said in a letter on The Trentonian’s Web site. “To me he was the comic relief of the family.”
“He would always have this mischievous smile when it was ‘in the moment,’ and also to lighten up moods,” Ritt said.
Warfield’s mother, the Rev. Marie Warfield Bunt, released a statement through Ritt in which she exalted her son’s musical talent and said that “the music world lost something very special” when he died.
Marissa Hepner, Warfield’s girlfriend of seven months, called him a “music prodigy,” and cited his care for friends and family as one of his many endearing qualities.
“Whenever I or somebody else was down, he would always say, ‘No! Smile!’” Hepner said. “I was so fortunate to have had him in my life.”
Hepner, 16, who attends Atholton High School in Warfield’s hometown of Columbia, Md., said that Warfield “meant the world” to her.
“I love him, and I always will,” she said in a written statement.
WCC sophomore music education major Moriah Wynkoop said that students on the Princeton campus have been dealing with Warfield’s death the best they can.
“There are a lot of emotions about this,” Wynkoop said. “We’re just starting to move on and move forward.”
Wynkoop said that the campus planned to commemorate Warfield by performing The Beatles’ “Let it Be,” a song she said he had sung just days before his passing.
The funeral will be held Sunday at 4:30 p.m., in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Elliott City, Maryland.