Final Alarm: Massive turnout for funeral celebrates ‘Jalen’s Journey’

DAGSBORO — A grieving, heartbroken community paused from mourning Saturday to celebrate “Jalen’s Journey.”

Ladder trucks from Greenwood and Indian River volunteer fire companies unite with an American flag during the funeral Saturday at Indian River High School for Jalen Griffin.

Hundreds upon hundreds of friends, classmates and extended fire service family joined family of Jalen Shymier Griffin, a young man whose infectious smile and caring heart touched the lives of many in his 23-plus years on earth.

Mr. Griffin died Sunday, May 12 – two months shy of his 24th birthday after a short but fiercely-fought battle with a severe illness.
Fire companies and departments from throughout Sussex County and beyond took part in the Final Alarm funeral procession, punctuated by a final stop at Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department, where Mr. Griffin was an active member for nearly 10 years.

“Jalen really had a strong love of serving his community through boots on the ground as a firefighter,” said DVFD fire captain Jason McCabe.

“He touched so many in the community. Not a bad bone in his body,” said Al Townsend, president of Dagsboro VFD. “Just look at the outpouring of the community.”

Indeed, in Indian River High School’s large auditorium it was standing-room-only for the full firefighter funeral, which followed a two-hour visitation.

Fire trucks lined up in the funeral procession.

Penny McCray said her cousin Jalen was very “well known.” She and Lisa Johnson, another of Mr. Griffin’s cousins, displayed t-shirts specially made to celebrate his life. With a photo collage on the front, the back read: “Your wings were ready, but my heart was not: Long Live Jalen.”
Known to many as “Boobie,” Mr. Griffin was the son of Kimberly Griffin-McCray and James Gibbs.

He graduated from Indian River High School in 2013.

At IRHS, Mr. Griffin was an all-around athlete. He was a member of the undefeated, state champion football team in 2011, the wrestling and baseball teams, the start-up lacrosse team and IR’s record-setting 4 x 4 track team.

Mr. Griffin worked at Tecta America as a service tech from 2017-19.

While there is immense grief and mourning, Rev. Zakiya Bakari-Griffin of Antioch African Methodist Episcopal Church in Frankford said there should also be celebration.

Pallbearers and honorary pallbearers ride with the casket carrying Jalen Griffin for the Final Alarm procession at Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department Station 73 Saturday.

“We can celebrate the life of this young man. I don’t know too many young people, that when I looked at from birth to the time God calls them home all that he accomplished,” said Rev. Bakari-Griffin. “And then I began to look at the fact that he was a volunteer fireman. And I thought about that is a job without pay … and you get up in the morning or late at night but when the call comes you answer. He answered God’s call on May 12. But we can celebrate this afternoon, because this is a celebration of life.”

Mr. McCabe noted Mr. Griffin led a drug-free, honorable life, adding that he was a joy to be around.

“He was one of those types of guys that if you are around him for five minutes, he already knew you and you already knew him,” said Mr. McCabe.

“He kind of brought a little bit more brightness into the day. He had an infectious smile and an even bigger personality to go along with it.”

The funeral procession continued from Dagsboro to Frankford for internment at the Antioch A.M.E. Church Cemetery.

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