Shane Tomlinson’s friends and loved ones chose to remember him the way he lived his life – full of joy, faith and music.
Tomlinson, 34, died in the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., while at the Pulse nightclub after his band’s show nearby. Attendees at Friday’s memorial service, at The Refuge church in Kannapolis, laughed as friends and family shared stories about Tomlinson. They lifted their hands, as groups he had participated in performed upbeat gospel music.
“Whatever the motives were of the shooter that day, they were not accomplished,” Tomlinson’s longtime friend Kristin Thompson said during the service.
She said the day brought love, unity and peace. “We are stronger for it,” she said.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
‘He blew us all away’
Tomlinson was born Aug. 25, 1981, weeks after the first MTV broadcast. His father, Stephan Tomlinson, remembers where he was when the world first saw Michael Jackson moonwalk to “Billie Jean” in 1983 – with Shane. He watched Jackson glide across the stage on TV and then looked down at his young son, who was doing the same thing.
“Pretty soon, Shane had all of Michael’s moves, and some that Michael would wish he had,” Tomlinson said.
Shane grew up in Ramapo, N.Y., and sang his first solo at the family’s church when he was 9. He was the only child to sing with the adult praise choir, but he had a voice that was so strong the sound technicians were scrambling to adjust the levels.
“He blew us all away,” Tomlinson said.
‘He taught us how to have fun’
Tomlinson moved to Concord when he was 14, where he continued to participate in music with the Northwest Cabarrus High School marching band and the Cabarrus County Multicultural Student Union choir.
Ruth Brooks, founder of the Cabarrus County Multicultural Student Union, remembers when Tomlinson first came to participate in the choir.
“Anybody who knows Shane, knows he’s gonna get something started,” Brooks said. “He taught us how to have fun.
“He could make you laugh when you were sad,” she said. “He could bring peace in your life when you were going through it, because he loved the Lord.”
The choir performed a lively rendition of “I Shall Wear a Crown,” a classic gospel song with lyrics about the joy waiting in heaven. Attendees stood up, clapping and swaying to the music.
‘Our very own supernova’
Tomlinson went on to earn a degree in communications from East Carolina University. His father had tried to persuade him to go into business, but Tomlinson was determined to be an entertainer.
After a few years as a property manager in Atlanta, he moved to Orlando. He loved Disney World and sang with the Joyful, Joyful Choir at the Epcot Center at Christmastime. He was a lead vocalist for the Frequency Band, an energetic cover group that has performed at clubs and events around the city. Members from both groups attended his memorial service Friday.
Tomlinson was hardworking and strong in his faith. He never turned down a chance to perform, but he loved to have fun. A slideshow showed him goofing around with friends, playing with his young nephew, posing dressed to the nines, singing on the beach.
“He was our very own supernova,” said Joyful, Joyful Choir director DeVonda Simmons Anthony of Shane’s energy.
The Frequency Band’s agent, Dennis Bailey, became close friends with Shane as they worked together. He admired Tomlinson’s vision and work ethic as a musician.
“He is now up in heaven singing with the angels, but knowing him, I know he’s pushing those angels to be better,” Bailey said.
Rachel Herzog: 704-358-5358; @rachel_herzog