Friends, family members, and others gathered at the corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue on Sept. 3 in an emotional prayer service for Clarence Weaver Jr., an Evanston Township High School graduate and promising contractor whose body was believed to have been found earlier in the day after an apparent drowning off of Monroe Harbor.
Family members had been gathering at the lakefront throughout the week, waiting to receive news about divers search efforts to locate Mr. Weaver Jr., better known as “CJ,” after had gone into the water during a boat outing Aug. 30.
A Chicago Police Department spokesperson said a body believed to be Mr. Weaver’s was discovered at 6 a.m. on Sept. 3 by divers searching in Monroe Harbor.
Mr. Weaver, 32, along with friends, had rented a pontoon boat for a day of boating on Sunday, Aug. 30.
His father, Clarence Weaver Sr. said his son was looking forward to sharing the experience with friends who had not gone boating before.
An experienced swimmer and former member of Evanston Township High School Swim Team, Mr. Weaver had jumped into the water during the outing but then could not be found.
Chicago Police, along with the Coast Guard officials sent out an alert at about 7:19 p.m., that day that lifeguards were searching for a man in the water near the 500 block of S. Lake Shore Drive.
After extensive search, officials transitioned their efforts to a recovery, with divers from police and the Coast Guard continuing search operations.
At the Sept. 3 vigil, which was streamed live over Facebook by dearevanston.org, a social media site, a number of speakers offered comfort and support to the Weavers in their ordeal.
The couple are the owners of C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, a convenience store located at Church Street and Dodge Avenue, across the street from where the vigil was held.
The two have been active in a number of community causes, including heading a Black Business consortium that provides a support network for black business owners.
“Evanston is one large family,” noted Reverend Dr. Michael Nabors, pastor of Second Baptist Church, at 1717 Benson Ave., where Mr. Weaver Sr., is a member of the ministry staff. “CJ was born and raised in this community. He went to ETHS and graduate just behind me. He never really left the community.”
Rev. Nabors noted that “CJ’s” eventual dream was to become an Evanston firefighter and that he had become friends over the past few years with Fire Chief Brian Scott, who was at the vigil, and talked about achieving that goal.
Evanston Mayor Stephen Hagerty and Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons paid their respects on behalf of the City.
“When one of us is in pain in Evanston, all of us are in pain,” Mayor Hagerty asserted. “There are people I’m sure in this audience who have lost a child. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be. But I want you to know that there is love in this community – deep, deep love for the Weaver family for both of you,” he said to the Weavers.
Ald. Simmons reflected, “I ever remember CJ as one of the hardest working young men, one of the most innovative young men that I’ve seen – one of the most committed.
CJ’s loss was a loss for us all,” she said. “He was an example that his parents set for him in business excellence, entrepreneurship and community. He was an example of a young father, and let us all that and remember it and be better for experiencing what he showed us,” she said.
Clarence Weaver Sr. told onlookers that even though his son Clarence was named after him, “we called him CJ.”
For himself, having a son like CJ “is an honor,” he said.
”For him, being CJ is even a greater honor,” he said of his son’s influence.
He directed his remarks to “all my son’s friends standing in the background” at the vigil.
“We talked about my business consortium and what we’re trying to do in the community,” he said, “and these guys were going together already and sanding floors and learning how to refinish bathtubs. And instead of doing things they shouldn’t have done, which they had already experienced, they paved their own way.”
Addressing Mr. Hagerty, “Mayor, I’d like to find a way for us to put together an expungement program, for young black men that make a mistake,” he said to applause. “They need not just a second chance. They need the same thing that we all need. They need a third chance; they need a fourth chance; they need a fifth chance.”
Challenging the audience, he asked, “Who do you need to reach out to? Who do you have the power and authority to change their lives and bring them into your fold and make a difference?”
Support for Weaver Family
Reverend Dr. Michael Nabors, Pastor Monté Dillard, Mayor Stephen Hagerty and Alderman Robin Rue Simmons offered words of comfort at the prayer vigil for the family of Clarence “C.J.” Weaver Jr. on Sept. 4 in the parking lot at Church Street and Dodge Avenue.
At the time of his death, Mr. Weaver was a business owner who refurbished and restored properties. His parents, Clarence and Wendy Weaver, are Evanston community leaders and owners of C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, which is cater-corner to the parking lot where the vigil was held.
Funeral services are being arranged. In lieu of flowers, an educational fund has been established for Malachi Weaver, son of C.J. Weaver.