The country is still grappling with the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and more violence and tragedy has broken out in Dallas in the aftermath. The senseless deaths of both men are being felt by people across the country, but no one has been hit harder than those whose lives were personally touched by Sterling and Castile.
To that point, a profile of 32-year-old Minneapolis victim Castile, who was gunned down by an officer in his car as he reached for his wallet, reveals a community that is still reeling and devastated by his loss. Time spoke with colleagues and parents Castile worked with at his job as a cafeteria supervisor at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, and they remember a hardworking, kind man who remembered all 500 children he served lunch every day, and even their food allergies:
“He remembered their names. He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t,” Joan Edman, a recently retired paraprofessional at the school, told TIME. “This was a real guy. He made a real contribution. Yes, black lives matter. But this man mattered.”
Castile had been working with the school since he was just 19 years old, having started there shortly after graduating from Central High School in 2001. He started out in the Nutrition Services Department in 2002 before eventually making his way up to a supervisory position two years ago. The day of his interview for that promotion, he wore a suit and a tie and told his interviewer that his goal was to someday “sit on the other side of this table.”
Likewise, parents at the school remember Castile as a fixture who enriched the lives of their children by transforming the cafeteria into “a positive and cheerful space.”
“He was a fixture. I was always happy to see him around school. The cafeteria was a pretty happy place. He was part of the community and an important one,” Andrew Karre, whose 8-year-old son attends J.J. Hill, told TIME.
“He was just a nice, caring person who worked at the school, who should not be dead,” said Karre, 37.
Five hundred kids. That’s how many lives are going to be affected by the loss of a man who is described by one of his former colleagues as “much a teacher than any teacher in that building.” Hundreds of parents rallied outside of the school Thursday, seeking justice for the loss. Pictures of the protest were posted on Twitter by New York Times reporter Ana Marie Cox.