Sunday, April 21, 2024

Na-Jae Josephs, in a photo posted on a crowdfunding page after he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School alum Na-Jae Josephs, 20, was killed Saturday in a hit-and-run accident in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, according to a crowdfunding page and media reports.

Update on Nov. 12, 2020: A candlelight vigil for Na-Jae Josephs has been announced for 4 p.m. Saturday at the stone overlook of Magazine Beach. Everyone is welcome to speak, organizers said, and attendees are asked to wear masks against the spread of coronavirus.

Josephs graduated from the high school in 2018, according to a spokeswoman for the district, after earlier attending Fletcher Maynard Academy and the Cambridge Street Upper School. He was creative, dabbling in art and photography, and at CRLS performed memorably in the modern dance company and as the lead male dancer in a November 2017 production of “West Side Story.” He was also a founding member of the school’s Black Student Union, teacher Kevin Dua said.

Josephs went on to attend the University of Massachusetts at Boston, according to his LinkedIn page.

Over the weekend, Josephs attended a family event at The Fiesta, a wedding venue along Route 17 in Wood-Ridge, a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey. Just before 10 p.m., a driver careened into Josephs as he stood outside the hall, then sped off, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office told Though the car has been found, criminal charges were slow to come.

“A number of people were in the car,” chief of detectives Robert Anzilotti told reporters. “We need to make sure which one was the actual driver.”

Josephs didn’t live long enough to be taken to a hospital for treatment, officials told the Essex Daily Voice.

“His infectious smile lit up a room, no matter your connection with Na-Jae, he was memorable,” said Aja Parker and Elizabeth Lopez on a GoFundMe account set up Tuesday. “He gave constant love to his friends and to his family, notably his mother. A day rarely went by when he didn’t mention his mom or pull up her latest post just to say how beautiful she was.”

The death is a double blow for Josephs’ mother, who recently lost her father to Covid-19, according to the crowdfunding page. “He loved her more than anything and she was his best friend,” the account says, referring to Josephs and his mother. “Now, although it is so difficult to think past this moment, we need to think of what has been left behind.” The page has a goal of $30,000; nearly 500 people contributed nearly $23,000 within seven just hours.

The many comments on the crowdfunding page and on social media were further testimony to how admired and loved Josephs was in the community.

“What I remember most about Na-Jae is his warmth and smile. He was always, always, kind to me, even though I was a few years younger than him. Najae had a way of transforming spaces and making anyone feel welcome,” wrote a donator identified as Willa Frank.

Another message spoke to Josephs directly: “We loved you so much, and you were the light in the darkness everyone needed. You will be so severely missed. We know that your dancing in the stars now and smiling down on all of us. We will never forget the many memories we shared, and the tons of laughter will never stop ringing in our ears. You will always be loved,” it said, attributed to Emily Henry and her family.

This post was updated Nov. 13 to correct that a candlelight vigil is Saturday.