Oxford resident Eric Shepherd, 26, passed away earlier this week due to complications from a blood clot. Known to his friends and family as simply “Shep,” he was involved in numerous arts, fashion and music circles around town.
“He was a socialite for sure; Shep was Shep. He was a very original character,” longtime friend Timothy Burkhead said. “He tried a lot of different things. When he wanted to be a DJ, he has a DJ personality that worked. When he was in fashion, he had all these crazy ideas that worked. If he wanted to do something, he was going to try it. You’re talking about a mid-20’s gay black man in Oxford, but he’s just Shep. You don’t look at him as all of these different things because he truly was so relatable.”
Burkhead along with another close friend to Shep, Quinn Chandler knew they wanted to help honor their friend by creating a GoFundMe page to ease the burden on Shepherd’s family. Shortly after posting the page, they quickly surpassed their goal of $6,000. The support they received showed the pair just how much their friend meant to the community.
“His family has no idea how many people he really touched,” Chandler said. “It shows how open he was in his friendships and the impression that he made on people. There’s an enormous part of this community that cares about Shep.”
Shepherd was a man of many ideas. Whether it was his poetry, clothes in his closet or art on his walls, Chandler and Burkhead were always in awe of what they would find.
“He never did anything in a way to show off what he had done, but you went over to his house, and you’re reading the words he’s written or his originals pieces of clothing or his art pieces… as you started to look at all of them, you realized this was all an expression of who he was,” Burkhead said.
“His life was almost like this multi-media project or exhibition,” Chandler added.
The visitation for Eric Shepherd is set for Friday, Feb. 24, from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at Hodges Funeral Home, followed by the funeral on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the T.O.M.B. Building on Highway 334. After the burial in Water Valley, Chandler and Burkhead knew they had to do something to properly celebrate the life of Eric Shepherd. An event will take place at the Lyric at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and the description on the GoFundMe page encourages guests “dress your best, push the envelope, and be yourself” as Shep would have.
“We’re throwing a party. In the true essence of Shep, there will be food, maybe a DJ and those who would like to say a few words can do so,” Burkhead said. “With Step being the fashion icon that he was, we expect people to come and express themselves but really just have a good time. We want it to be like a Grammys party since we knew that’s where he was destined to end up.”
“There’s no way all the info about Shep will come out in any article, you’d need a museum exhibit,” Burkhead said.
“He’s not going to stop surprising us. I think we’ll find out a lot about him on Saturday that even we didn’t know,” Chandler said. “He left nothing but the fondest memories.”
To donate to the GoFundMe page, click here.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.