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'Gone Too Soon, And We’re Truly Going To Miss Him.' Coworkers, Family Commemorate Shadel Hamilton of Miami Gardens Who Died Of COVID-19

Shadel Hamilton.jpg
Courtesy of Lakeisha Stevenson
Shadel Hamilton, 62, of Miami Gardens died of COVID-19 on Sept. 7, 2020.

Nearly 15,500 people in Florida have died from COVID-19, which is not just a statistic, but a number that represents people in our communities. People like Shadel Hamilton, a Miami-Dade Transit worker and pastor at his church in Miami Gardens, who died from COVID-19.

Shadel Hamilton could've retired at 62 — after reaching the 30-year mark with Miami-Dade Transit. After 31 years into his job as a bus operator, though, he wasn’t ready yet, and that made everyone who worked with him happy.

"Shadel was a very jolly type of guy," said Jeffery Mitchell, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 291 and a colleague of Hamilton for about 15 years. "Everybody liked him because he made you feel good when you talked to him and he was just adored by everybody."

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Mitchell remembers him as being polite, he joked a lot and he was very spiritual.

"So all of that made him an overall favorite for people, especially at the garage," he said.

When Hamilton got sick this past August, Mitchell thought he’d be OK.

"Then he started to get progressively a little worse and I got concerned about it, but he was still stable," Mitchell said. "At no point in time I thought that he was going to pass away."

His eldest daughter, Lakeisha Stevenson, didn’t think so either.

"We were very hopeful and we had good reason to believe that he was coming home and that just wasn't the case," Stevenson said. "It's a hard pill to swallow."

Stevenson lights up again remembering how growing up, Hamilton was a really fun dad.

"He was the parent that literally would let us shoot water guns in the house and then say, 'Hurry up and clean it before your mom gets home,'" she said, laughing from the memories. "He took us to doctors appointments. Mom didn't have to take [time] off work for that. He cooked dinner. He arranged a home. He was really an all-around man. He loved fresh water fishing — loved it, loved it, loved it. And so he was just a pretty all around guy. He would drive from here to literally Timbuktu if he had to get to you."

On Sundays, you could find Hamilton preaching at his church, the Lifeline Urban Ministries in Miami Gardens, where he supported his community. And he was the center of his family, too.

"We feel a little lost. We feel a little lost," Stevenson said. "My faith is strong, but there are days where I've just felt helpless."

Hamilton died on Sept. 7 of COVID-19. On the day of his funeral last month, his coworkers brought out the bus he drove, blocking a street.

"I said, 'It’s just like you. You figure if you're going to go out, you're going to go out with a bang," Stevenson said. "My daughter was sitting next to me in the van and here comes the motorcycles and here comes the police cars and here comes the public safeties and I said, 'Have you ever seen a funeral with this much noise? It’s just like your grandfather. He’s just cutting up, making all of this noise.'"

His coworkers say Hamilton was family to them, too.

"You spend more time with people at work than you do at home, and so it was like family," Mitchell said.

Another coworker, Andre Brown, remembers how Hamilton was part of the expert dominoes and checkers players, and how much he loved to teach younger bus operators how to do the job well.

"A couple of coworkers decided that we wanted to honor Mr. Hamilton in a way that showed appreciation for the service that he provided, because at Miami-Dade Transit, we are family," said Brown about a prayer circle they organized for Hamilton after he died.

In a video recording of it, a few of Hamilton's children hug and grieve in the center while Brown led the prayer.

"He risked a lot, and that’s what I was telling his family is that, 'Thank you," Brown told WLRN. "Thank you for letting us be a part of your family because he became a part of my family, and as transit workers we all are one. We feel for them. Just like they lost a father, we lost a friend. He’s gone too soon, and we’re truly going to miss him."

That day, they released some balloons for Hamilton.

"Some of the balloons got caught around the wires, around the light post, so we say he's still sticking around," Brown added, with a chuckle.

Hamilton is survived by his mother, Joyce Knight, his wife, Myra Hamilton, their seven children, 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

WLRN is working to memorialize victims of the virus. Have you lost someone to COVID-19? Please consider sharing their story with us below.