The caskets were a mirror image of each other, the brothers inside them dressed in black suits and fedoras and the floral arrangements atop them done in the Rastafarian colors of red, yellow, green. Outside the church, matching light-colored hearses idled side by side.
Ralston "Roy" Holder and Everton "Cliffy" Holder, Jamaica natives and East Baltimore auto shop owners, were shot to death hours apart on the same day last week. Yesterday was their double funeral.
The two ran the Eveready Towing & Repair shop in the 3300 block of E. Fayette St. They had a reputation for generosity, giving steep discounts to customers who were paying out of pocket and letting a homeless employee sleep at the shop for a time.
"You couldn't find nobody better than these two guys, I guarantee that," said Raphael Patrick, another native Jamaican who worked with the Holders for more than five years and said they were like brothers to him. "I miss them dearly. I miss their laughter, their jokes, their conversation."
Shortly before 10 a.m. Dec. 20, Ralston Holder, 52, was shot several times in the parking lot of the Northeast Baltimore apartment complex where he lived, as his 3-year-old son sat in a truck nearby. The child was uninjured. Less than three hours later, as he was locking up the auto shop to attend to his grieving family, 41-year-old Everton Holder was shot several times by a masked gunman.
Baltimore police said they believe the killings are connected, but no arrests had been made as of late yesterday. Police spokesman Matt Jablow called the investigation "extremely active." He said at least one person connected to the Holders was being protected by officers.
Neither of the brothers had a criminal record in Maryland.
Ralston Holder leaves behind four children and two grandchildren, his family said, and Everton Holder, six children. Between them, the brothers have at least 19 siblings and a string of cousins, nieces and nephews.
Both men were engaged to be married, friends and relatives said, and Everton Holder had kept a close relationship with his ex-wife, Tami Holder. She had identified herself in earlier interviews with The Sun as Everton Holder's wife, but court records show they divorced in 2004.
At yesterday's service, members of the large family, some who had flown in from Jamaica, and friends and acquaintances filled every pew of the Pikesville Seventh-day Adventist Church. Tributes flowed as children wailed and several women cried out, "Why?"
Marlene Morris, the Holders' eldest cousin, said the brothers "were too good for their own good." One friend described them as businessmen who cared little about money.
Stephen Church, a private investigator and former police officer in Baltimore and Prince George's County who befriended the Holders more than 15 years ago, said he trusted them above anyone else. Their advice, he said, kept him out of trouble and on the right path.
It's difficult to sum up, he said, "the things they've done for people."
The brothers grew up with their father Dudley Holder's large family in a rural area of St. James, Jamaica, called Maroon Town. Their father had a bus company and still resides in Jamaica.
In Jamaica, the boys had some elementary school education, but, as their cousin Marlene Morris said, most of their knowledge came from "the school of hard knocks."
As youngsters, Ralston and Everton were so close that the then-7-year-old Everton asked to come along inside Ralston's pants pocket when Ralston immigrated to the United States at age 18, their sister Desmalee Holder-Nevins said.
Ralston Holder worked as a machine operator in New York for 28 years, and, about 1989, Everton Holder came to Baltimore and began a career as a mechanic, eventually owning his own shop. Six years ago, Ralston Holder moved to Baltimore and joined his brother's business. A sister owns a Jamaican carryout on Greenmount Avenue.
"We do not know why life deals blows that are hard to heal," said Holder-Nevins in her tribute to her brothers. "Gone too soon, we would think, but a life well-lived is a life worth remembering. And today we know God knows the rest."