Every day was a happy day for Justyce Reid.
She was a cheerleader both on and off the Halifax County High School football field, and spread love and joy to everyone she encountered.
That’s how the 2020 Halifax County High School graduate was remembered at her celebration of life service Sunday morning in South Boston’s Constitution Square.
Justyce died Sept. 4 from COVID-19 at the age of 18.
“Justyce loved her teammates both on and off the field. She also loved helping others,” said Halifax County High School principal Michael Lewis, as he glanced over at the cheerleading team seated to his left at Reid’s celebration of life service.
“There are some people that bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains. The light and love that Justyce brought to all of our lives will live on in our hearts forever.”
Bishop Tyrone Strange of Deliverance Tabernacle of the Apostolic Faith, used the acronym L.O.V.E. to describe Justyce’s life.
He explained that Justyce was “lively” and always had a cheerful attitude. She was an “overcomer” who overcame all the obstacles in her life, including her health problems and having Down’s Syndrome. She had the “victory” because she is “smiling at her Savior” in heaven, and her legacy in the town of South Boston is “everlasting,” he added.
Justyce’s youth pastor, Elder Larry Burrell of Deliverance Tabernacle of the Apostolic Faith, shared a message of Justyce’s joyous spirit, unwavering faith in God and strength to conquer obstacles she faced.
“Justyce was known as our ‘miracle baby’ simply because she outlived the reports of the doctors. Even when the doctor said she would not live past the age of 10, she outlived the doctor’s report,” Burrell said. “She did not lose her trust in God in spite of what she was going through.”
Justyce’s mother Jacqueline Reid said Justyce had dealt with various illnesses in her lifetime, but she never complained. She would always say, “Mama, it’s alright,” so she did not know how sick her daughter was with COVID-19 until she called her into her room one day, and she nearly passed out when she tried to get out of bed.
“Dr. Truitt and the ICU nurses at Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital were awesome, and they did everything they could for Justyce. God knows your appointed time,” Jacqueline said. “Justyce has touched so many people’s lives, and that’s what she was designed to do...At the end of the day, she would want us to just love and respect people, the way that she loved other people.”
Burrell described Justyce as a “unifier” who showed love to everyone and whose cheerful personality made an impact on those around her.
“There was never a dull moment with Justyce. She would make you happy even if you were having a bad day,” Burrell told the crowd at her celebration of life service. “She was the type of person who brought everybody together in unity. Justyce brought us all together, including all races, ethnicities and denominations.”
Justyce’s cheerleading coach Tammie Saunders described her as a cheerleader both on and off the field, always showing up to practice with a positive attitude, ready to go, and keeping the cheerleaders and the coaches on their toes.
“She had the true spirit of a Comet, spreading school spirit and love and happiness to all those she came into contact with,” Saunders said. “She was sassy. If anybody was getting out of line, she would be quick to tell them, ‘That’s not right,’ and put them back in line.”
Saunders shared that Justyce fit in with the cheerleading team from day one.
“The girls all rallied around her every day at practice. She would go around high fiving everyone. She always gave it 110%. Even the fans would look forward to Justyce being at the games on Friday night,” Saunders said. “She’s definitely going to be missed. We were looking forward to her coming back and spending Friday nights with us on the sidelines.”
Jacqueline said joining the cheerleading team of her senior year of high school had a positive impact on her daughter’s life.
“She enjoyed it. She had her own rhythm,” Jacqueline said. “Being on the team gave her a little determination, the girls pushed her. They became like family,” Jacqueline said. “This was a great senior year for her.”
In addition to cheering, Justyce took dance lessons at Essence of Movement Dance Studio and participated in the Polar Plunge at the Special Olympics in Virginia Beach every February. Jacqueline said she wanted her daughter to live a full life and not to miss out because of having Down’s Syndrome.
Justyce’s teacher Betsey Harris said Justyce’s disability never stood in her way of doing anything.
“She was a sweet little diva, very friendly, very outgoing. She kept everybody on their toes,” Harris commented. “Everybody knew Justyce. She was very involved with the community.”
Harris recalled some of her former student’s favorite things – pocketbooks, going out to eat at Applebee’s with the cheerleading team, and greeting her classmates every day.
For four years, Justyce sat in the front row of Harris’ classroom at school, ready to learn.
Harris is already feeling Justyce’s absence, but her Comets spirit lives on in the classrooms and hallways of Halifax County High School, and on the football field where she cheered on the Comets on Friday nights.