Community remembers Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker with vigil

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The community continues to remember boxing legend Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker. 

Hundreds came together in Norfolk on Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil. 

Mayor Kenny Alexander and other city leaders offered praise for “Sweet Pea.” 

The vigil was held in Young Terrace where Whitaker grew up. His family spoke and said they’re overwhelmed by the support and love they’ve received.

Not far from the street in his name, Whitaker’s life and legacy came full circle Tuesday night.

“He felt like these were his streets, this was his people, these were his family,” said Zelda Brown, one of Whitaker’s sisters.

Hundreds of people from the Young Terrace community gathered for a vigil — but instead of tears, there were cheers in what was a celebration of Whitaker’s life. 

“The work of Purnell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker follows him from earth to glory,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander.

Alexander called Whitaker Norfolk’s son and a hometown hero. 

“There are only a few people who put Norfolk on the map and Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker was one of those persons to put Norfolk on the map,” Alexander said.

“He was the greatest thing that ever came out of Norfolk, out of the Tidewater area in general,” said Terri Adams, a friend of Whitaker.

Speakers shared memories of the boxing legend and the impact he had on the community. 

“If you have a ‘Sweet Pea’ story say ‘Amen,’” Delegate Jay Jones said. “’Sweet Pea’ touched all of us in so many ways.”

Dana Lamb, a friend and former high school classmate, said Whitaker helped unite the community.

“To me, he brought Virginia together. Just like he’s bringing all these people together tonight, he brought people together,” Lamb said.

“He was just a great guy. He gave back to the community, wanted to help all the time with up-and-coming boxers and even just somebody like me, just to train me and help me lose weight,” Adams said.

Whitaker’s family thanked the crowd for their support. 

“With all his heart and all his love, like my sister said, he loved his fans,” Brown said.

Although he’s gone, his family said his legacy will live forever.

“I know we’re all going to miss him but he is a legend,” Brown said.

Councilman Paul Riddick also took to the podium and unofficially proposed to rename the boxing center at Harbor Park in Whitaker’s name.

We’ll let you know if that comes to fruition.

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