INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Jared Thomas looked around the spacious Pavilion at Pan Am Plaza and watched a long line of people work their way through the room, six feet at a time. They were all there to pay respects to his beloved uncle, Chris Beaty, and it was hard for the 23-year-old Thomas to absorb.
"I don't believe it,. I still don't believe it, and I don't think I ever will believe it,'' said Thomas, who just completed his college football career at Northwestern this past fall. "Our relationship, it didn't feel like uncle to nephew. He was more like a big brother to me, and he taught me a lot about life along the way. I miss him like crazy already.''
Beaty grew up in Indianapolis and has been well known in the city since he was a kid. He was part of three state championship football teams at Cathedral High School, and then went to Indiana and played college football there from 2000 to 2003. He's been a popular businessman in Indianapolis ever since, right up until he was killed on May 30, gunned down outside of his apartment while trying to stop a robbery.
The community outpouring of love for Beaty has been evident around town since his death, and Friday was the exclamation point, with several thousand people passing through the memorial services. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, everyone had to stay six feet apart and wear masks, and only 25 people at a time were allowed in the room.
But it all worked well and everyone got to pay their respect. Most couldn't make it through without shedding a tear.
That included Joe Bobish, a former Indiana football player as well, and a friend of Beaty's for more than 20 years. The pair just started a business together a few months ago — Worldwide Masks — to help keep people safe during the pandemic. Bobish got Beaty to team up with him "because he's the best marketing guy I've ever known.''
And now, just like that, his good friend and business partner are gone. It was an emotional day for Bobish, as well.
"I've never met a person who didn't like him. Every time he walked into a room, he just brightened it up,'' Bobish said. "We've had this bond for a long time. That's why today is hard, seeing him there, and seeing his family and all his friends here. This is tough.''
There were several pictures of Beaty on display through the room and a collage of photos streamed across three huge screens above his open casket. Friends helped other friends with a lot of emotional support.
That's what Beaty brought out in them.
"When I grew up, the phrase that was always coined was that 'it takes a village,' '' Thomas said. "And in that village, it may not be your parents, although mine were there every step of the way, and it may not be a sibling, and my brother (Jordan) was there every step of the way, too.
"The No. 1 person in that village was my uncle, being with me every step of the way, not to tell me what to do, but just to support me and if I was on the wrong track, he'd steer me back onto the right track.''
People who have talked about Beaty this week have all talked about how Beaty was always most interested in helping out people, and he didn't whether that benefited him or not. Thomas has noticed that in his uncle. He was a do-er, not a talker.
"People say a lot of things, but when you do for them, it's amazing. He did a lot for me, was always there,'' Thomas said. "That's what I'll miss the most, just hanging out with him, talking with him, learning from him. He's a great man and a great individual, and I'm blessed to have had him in my life.''
Thomas said Beaty was great at teaching him life lessons, helping him grow into a better person and being better prepared for what comes at him in life.
"I had a situation once, poor judgment on my part, and I didn't own up to whatever happened and I was looking to blame others,'' he said. "He dropped everything and drove over to my house and came over to talk me. He told me, 'if you want to be an upstanding individual in society that has a positive impact on people, it's critical that you own up to everything that you do. You don't look to other people when something goes wrong, you look inward.
"This wasn't someone that was trying to just criticize me. He wanted to mold me so when when I get down the road in my life, I can do that to help someone else.''
Friends and family both could tell a lot of stories like that. That's exactly why so many paid their respects on Friday.
Beaty's funeral is Saturday, a private affair from family only. It was be streamed, however, at www.ChrisBeatyFoundation.org
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to the Chris Beaty Memorial Fund, which has been set up by the family to fund scholarships for students at Cathedral High School and Indiana University, Beaty's two alma maters.
The fund so far has raised nearly $140,000 for scholarships, with more than 1,500 people making donations to the GoFundMe page.
Previous Chris Beaty stories
- BEATY KILLED OUTSIDE APARTMENT (June 1): After violence broke out in downtown Indianapolis after a night of protesting, former Indiana football player Chris Beaty was killed outside his apartment trying to stop a robbery. CLICK HERE
- BEATY'S FINAL MOMENTS (June 2): Chris Beaty died "trying to help others'' as friends describe his final hours that ended with his murder outside his downtown Indianapolis apartment. CLICK HERE
- ARTISTS COMMEMORATE BEATY (June 4): The story behind the artists' mural of Chris Beaty in downtown Indianapolis, and the scholarship fund set up in his honor to help students at Cathedral High School and Indiana University. CLICK HERE
- FUNERAL DATES SET (June 6): The memorial service and funeral dates for Chris Beaty have been set. CLICK HERE
- HELPING OTHERS SUCCEED (June 10): Chris Beaty was a successful businessman, but what matters to him even more was helping his friends succeed with their businesses, too. CLICK HERE
- BEATY OBITUARY, SERVICE DETAILS (June 11): Here are the details for Chris Beaty's memorial service and funeral, plus his obituary. CLICK HERE