The murder of Kempton Howard, a beloved youth worker and basketball coach, continues to haunt his mother, Joan Howard, even 20 years after his tragic death. On a fateful day, Kempton was fatally shot in the hallway outside their ninth-floor apartment in East Toronto. He had just celebrated his 24th birthday and was a promising physiotherapy student at Seneca College.
Joan Howard, a single mother of two, reflects on the loss of her son, wondering what he could have become at 44. She describes the pain as an enduring ache in her heart. Before Kempton’s death, Joan had been climbing the ladder of life, considering buying a house and exploring future possibilities. His loss abruptly ended those dreams and reshaped her perspective on life, teaching her the fragility of existence.
Over the past two decades, Joan has channeled her grief into advocacy and community support. She tirelessly fights against gun violence, speaks at engagements, and initiates petitions to make her community safer. She’s determined to use her voice to speak for all mothers who have lost children to gun violence, vowing to continue until she physically cannot.
In memory of Kempton, Joan organized a 20th-anniversary memorial at a park renamed in his honor on Mother’s Day in 2007. This event was not about sorrow but a celebration of Kempton’s kind and good-hearted nature. Joan released doves into the sky, a symbolic gesture that she had performed on the fifth and tenth anniversaries of his death.
Kempton’s murder left a lasting impact on the Blake-Boultbee neighborhood. It served as a stark reminder that life can be taken abruptly. Many youths in the community were profoundly affected, realizing the importance of leadership and parental involvement. Laurette Jack, a staff member at the local community center, still feels a sense of responsibility to the community, as she was there at the time of the tragedy.
Joan shared that the night before Kempton’s murder, he had confronted two individuals smoking weed in a nearby parking lot, asking them to leave. The next day, these individuals returned to the building and a fatal altercation ensued. Two men were eventually sentenced in connection with Kempton’s slaying: Aslyn Walker for second-degree murder and Craig Scotland for manslaughter.
Kempton Howard’s tragic murder continues to affect his family and community, serving as a stark reminder of the devastating impact of gun violence. Joan Howard has channeled her grief into advocacy and community support, vowing to never stop until real change is achieved. Kempton’s memory lives on in the hearts of those who knew him, and his legacy serves as a catalyst for positive change in the community.