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Remembering Rep. Donald McEachin: ‘I can’t believe he’s gone’

Posted at 9:59 PM, Dec 07, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia congressman Donald McEachin was laid to rest on Wednesday following his death last month from the secondary effects of colon cancer.

Mourners packed St. Paul's Baptist church to celebrate McEachin's life and service.

"Donald was a wonderful friend and I can't believe that, I can't believe he's gone," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said.

"Virginia lost a great leader. A whole lot of us, including me, lost a good friend," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) said.

As his flag-draped casket lay at the front, he was remembered as a "gentle giant" guided by "truth-telling and justice-making".

"It's going to be a big hole to fill. You know, there's a scripture that talks about a mighty oak that has fallen. That's Donald McEachin," Tyrone Nelson, a Varina representative with the Henrico County Board of Supervisors, said.

Attendees included dozens from Congress and state and local leaders, some of whom were guided and inspired by him.

Politically, they said he was dedicated to civil rights, health disparities and environmental justice, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the latter - he was the heart and soul of that movement.

"He was passionate and committed," Warner said. "You literally saw his physical stature shrink because of the disease but he never complained."

They added that McEachin was a family man first and they thanked his wife and children for sharing him. In return, they expressed thanks for the outpouring of support.

"Donald was a person who embraced an ethos of always helping others," Kaine said.

Among the speakers was Virginia Senator Kaine, who said he hopes people are inspired by McEachin's life, including getting a theology degree as an adult, and always looking for new challenges and asking how they can help others.

"Even if you're, you know, well into your adult life, you should be open to inspiration as Donald was," Kaine said.

Other community members, like Pam Mines, the founder of the JP Jumpers Foundation, remembered McEachin with fondness.

"He's a gentle giant. He had a huge impact on the community," Mines said.

In 2013, Mines went to McEachin, looking to advocate for her son. She wanted to get a code passed in Virginia to allow people to self-report on their driver's license if they have special needs or autism, something she believes would help how law enforcement interact with people like her son.

"He kinda picked up the ball and started rolling and said, this is a great idea and let's figure out how we are going to do it," Mines said.

From there, she said McEachin became a champion for the cause, helping to get it passed and eventually signed into Virginia state law.

"When I say he took this seriously, he was truly and honestly concerned for the special needs community and what could happen to them. I was overwhelmed with the love and support he gave, all the way into being a congressman," Mines said.

Following the service, a procession left the church back into the city where he will be buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery.

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