RICHMOND, Va – A Richmond elementary school community is rallying around the family of one of their students after the 10-year-old “gentle giant” passed away suddenly last week.
Xavier Holman, a student at Overby-Sheppard Elementary, was a loving, caring, and joyful boy who loved to draw characters from “Sonic the Hedgehog” by hand, according to his grandmother Gwen Holman.
He was known for his artistic flair and big smile.
“He hated to see anybody sad. Even his friends at school, if they were upset about something, it would touch his heart to the point he would sit there and cry with them because they were upset,” Holman said. “Everybody is so used to seeing Xavier come up the hall laughing, smiling, you know, hug for everybody.”
Xavier fell ill last week, and his family took him the hospital for treatment. The next morning, he went into shock.
“I watched Xavier code four times,” Holman said. She says he passed away a few days later and she has gotten very little sleep since that day.
“I’m used to hearing him walk down the hall in the middle of the night. I sit up on the edge of the bed, listening for that tip-toe down the hall. ‘You okay grandma?’ Yeah, I’m okay baby. I know that tip-toe down the hall ain’t going to be coming. . . it’s really hard,” Holman said.
Holman said Xavier was diagnosed with autism several years ago. Through therapy and work at school, she said he went from a toddler who could not easily form words to an outspoken young boy.
“To a child that would come up with words like, ‘that’s outstanding grandma!’ Where did you come up with, wait a minute. Just out of the blue one day, that’s outstanding,” Holman said.
The pain extends to Xavier’s school family too. Touched by the loss, staff members and teachers at the school have organized a fundraising page to help Xavier’s family cover the costs of a home-going service they were not expecting to conduct.
“No one is ever prepared to deal with death but imagine the toll of losing a precious 10-year-old. Xavier was the sweetest, kindest and most gentle child you would ever meet. As a community, we will miss him deeply,” the GoFundMe page reads.
“All the ladies over at Overby-Sheppard, I love them. I love them all!” Holman said as she blew a kiss toward her computer camera. A feeling that is returned by the school community.
CBS 6 asked staff members at the school to write a brief message to Xavier’s family.
“Xavier was a shy, kind, young man that had a gentle spirit. His smile could brighten up a room. When he laughed, everyone laughed. I will miss the chuckle when he thought something was funny. It always made me chuckle,” wrote Shayla Holeman, the school’s principal.
“It was a pleasure having Xavier in my class this year. Though we are virtual, Xavier was always prepared and ready to learn. He was the sweetest and most pleasant child. He will truly be missed,” wrote his teacher, Mrs. Faye.
“Xavier! A sweet, compassionate and creative force. What joy he brought! Our gentle giant has left; our hearts ache. Dazed are we. A bright light gone too soon! We love you!” wrote his 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Walker.
“Xavier was an awesome kid and part of my Bacon Breakfast Club! To encourage attendance, we voted on the favorite breakfast food, "BACON"! Whichever members of "The Club" had great attendance for that week would be treated to a special club breakfast together in the library. Xavier would joke on whoever didn't make the cut for that week, especially the other Xavier in "The Club", and would still ask if he could come when he didn't. LOL! We had great fun. His memory as a genuinely caring person will never fade,” wrote Mr. Powell, a media specialist.
“There are no words to describe how much Xavier is going to be missed. Xavier’s smile was so contagious. He was smart, funny, very artistic and a complete joy to be around. I will always hold onto his smile and how happy he always was. Xavier could always bring a smile to your face. It was such a joy getting to know and work with Xavier,” wrote Ms. Johnson, an instructional assistant.
The words shared by the Overby-Sheppard staff capture Xavier perfectly, according to Holman. She was touched by the gesture as her family continues to deal with the immense pain of their loss.
“All the love that everyone is showing us, we are so thankful,” Holman said as she held up pictures of her grandson. “This little boy, this little man here, is who we’re doing all of this for. To let him know, that you were truly loved and you will be truly missed. Your heart is always going to be here with us and beating here with us.”
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized yet. Xavier’s family did not want to discuss the specifics of death publicly, but they said it was not related to COVID-19.