Updated August 30, 2019 - 11:28 pm
As Sharon Harrell’s nieces and nephew painted a picture of their beloved aunt as an angel onto the door of her restaurant Friday night, the woman’s cartoon smile stood out.
“Even through hard times she kept a smile on her face,” said 24-year-old Adrienne Markham. “We’re trying to do the same — and it’s hard — but for her we’re willing to do anything.”
The mood outside TC’s World Famous Rib Crib quickly turned somber as about 200 family members and friends showed up to remember the 53-year-old. Harrell, who owned the restaurant for 15 years, was found dead Wednesday in her car on the 4000 block of West Twain Avenue, near South Valley View Boulevard in the Chinatown area, after she had been missing about a week.
As of Friday afternoon, the Clark County coroner’s office had not officially identified the body. Alexis Germany, Harrell’s goddaughter, told the Review-Journal on Thursday that Harrell’s family had confirmed the woman’s identity.
Police said Harrell was last seen alive Aug. 23 near Durango Drive and Oakey Boulevard, but more circumstances surrounding her death have not been released.
Germany said Thursday that she was told police suspect foul play in the woman’s death. Like Germany, Markham on Friday declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding her death and disappearance, instead preferring to focus on her legacy.
“Everybody should just remember the beautiful spirit of my aunt,” Markham said. “She really wouldn’t want anybody sad and crying.”
As soon as the mural of Harrell was finished, with a halo atop her head and an apron around her waist, the crowd gathered around to light candles and pray.
After the prayers, which focused on how Harrell loved and gave back to her community, Vance “Stretch” Sanders stood in front of the crowd to talk about Harrell. The community activist and reverend said he met Harrell about five years ago when he hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the restaurant.
“Anytime I needed anything — burgers, donations — she was there,” he said.
Sanders described Harrell as a “blueprint” for how others should live their lives, by always smiling, being kind and helping others.
“I encourage us to look at the ‘Sharon-print’ and get to work,” he said.
Before the vigil, Harrell’s nieces said their aunt was always working at the restaurant, which she treated as “her baby.” The restaurant, with a menu full of family recipes, was closed Friday for the vigil and will be closed until further notice.
“Our aunt would be livid that we closed this restaurant,” 26-year-old Natia Stanley said while her cousins laughed and helped finish the painting Stanley designed.
Almost all of Harrell’s extended family worked at the restaurant at some point in their lives, Markham said, adding that she would often receive phone calls from her aunt at 1 a.m. as Harrell was leaving the restaurant for the day.
“We would come in just to say hi or get something to eat, and she’d be like, ‘Go get an apron on, I need your help at table two,’” Markham said.
With giving jobs to people who needed it, Harrell used her own money to make food and buy clothes for homeless people in the area, her nieces said.
“Her whole purpose on this earth was to give,” Stanley said. “She completely radiated love and light.”
As the vigil ended, people lined up to write messages to Harrell on a section of the window next to the angel painting, with dozens of candles and bouquets of flowers at their feet. The messages thanked Harrell for her love and promised to remember her.
“She was the true definition of a queen,” Markham said.