The summer Bunny Egerton's daughter was 10, she was the only girl to attend basketball camp. Some of the boys in the program wouldn't play with her, until Michael Jefferson took them aside for a talk.
"[He] sat the boys down and said you either play with her or go home," Egerton remembered. "He was her first real-life hero."
Every parent of a kid who was ever in Jefferson's care seems to have a story like Egerton's.
Since learning that Jefferson, 39, a director of school-age services with the Columbia Association, was murdered at his home in Woodlawn on Easter Sunday, they've been sharing their memories of a man they say was "creative," "gregarious" and "kind."
"Mike was one of the most dedicated, most caring, most no-hidden-agenda people I've ever met in my life," said Egerton, who worked with Jefferson for 12 years as general manager for youth services at CA.
"He was one of a kind," said Jenn Cavey, whose kids attended daycare at Northfield Elementary School, where Jefferson ran before- and after-school programs. "We've dealt with many care providers over the years and he was special."
Community members said they were reeling after hearing news of Jefferson's death. According to documents filed in Baltimore County District Court, a neighbor, Brandon Jerome Stanfield, allegedly shot Jefferson because he felt "disrespected" when Jefferson left a barbecue before Stanfield's family arrived.
Stanfield, 30, has been charged with first-degree murder.
At Northfield, Jefferson, who went by "Big Mike" or "Mr. Mike," had a reputation for making quick bonds with kids and parents alike.
"Within a matter of days, he… knew which parent every kid belonged with," Cavey said.
While picking up her son at school one day, Cavey learned that Jefferson's reach extended beyond daycare.
"He would stand in the hall after school when kids were arriving for [after-care], and he would be high-fiving kids" who weren't in the program, she said. "He knew kids he wasn't responsible for."
Egerton said Jefferson supported children outside of the program, too.
"Mike, in his off time, would frequently go to sports games and recitals," she said.
Ande Kolp, whose three children went through the after-care program with Jefferson, said he made it a point to ask how they were doing.
"Years later, he'd remember your kid and ask what sports they were doing, and so on," she said. "And then he would show up to support them. All the kids he took care of… became his kids."
Kim Lehmann, whose 7-year-old son Kai, a first-grader at Northfield who had been in Jefferson's after-care group since September, created a Facebook page, "Friends for Michael Jefferson," devoted to making sure Jefferson is not forgotten.
By Thursday morning, the page had more than 200 likes.
Lehmann, a former criminal defense attorney in Baltimore City, said she planned on using the page to coordinate a presence at Stanfield's court dates.
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"I know how important it is that the public take an interest," she said.
Too often, she added, victims "lose their name and their face and their identity."
Jefferson, she said, has "got friends, he's got family, he's got people that care about him."
Childhood friend Ahmad McQueen said Jefferson's father, Michael Jefferson, Sr., was touched by the community's outpouring of memories.
"He's just overwhelmed with people loving and supporting his son," he said.
A viewing for Jefferson is scheduled for Thursday, May 1, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Vaughn Greene Funeral Home at 8728 Liberty Road in Baltimore. A funeral is scheduled for the next day, Friday, May 2, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Shiloh Christian Community Church at 825 Yale Avenue in Baltimore.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this story.