Friends say the brightly colored running shoes hanging from the crosswalk posts at the corner of Holly Springs Road and Linksland Drive are a fitting memorial for Derek Macrae Davis, the man who suffered fatal injuries there on April 20.
Davis wasn’t just a runner. The 37-year-old husband and father of four – who died Monday from injuries sustained when a teenager struck him with a car at that intersection – also was a perpetual optimist who friends say would run through fire to help someone.
“He loved to run, and he loved to serve,” said Josh Brammer, who volunteered with Davis at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Apex.
Davis, a bishop’s counselor at the church, was always one of the first to volunteer to help someone, Brammer said.
On Thursday evening, more than 200 people paid tribute to Davis by running more than a mile from Bombshell Brewing in Holly Springs to the crosswalk where Davis was hit. Heavy rain started as soon as runners took the road toward the intersection – but that only encouraged them.
Don Parsons, who worked with Davis at SAS Institute in Cary, pushed his baby as he trotted through the downpour.
“She’s out because this is a special occasion,” said Parsons, who, along with Lou Soleo, often ran with Davis on their lunch breaks.
“We thought this was an appropriate way to remember and recognize him,” Soleo said.
People lined the west side of Holly Springs Road and cheered on runners as they reached the crosswalk at Linksland Drive. Signs and balloons marked the crosswalk where police say Roberto Carlos Solis-Reyes, an 18-year-old Holly Springs High School student, allegedly ran a red light and struck Davis with his car around 6:30 a.m. that fated Monday.
Davis’ wife, Amanda, was with him when it happened but was unharmed. Derek Davis was taken to WakeMed in Raleigh where he remained in critical, but stable, condition throughout the week, said Tim Germann, a friend who is serving as a spokesperson for the family.
Germann said there had been an expectation Davis would recover from the surgeries he had endured, but he took a turn for the worse over the weekend.
Police charged Solis-Reyes with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, running a red light, failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, failure to yield causing serious bodily injury, careless and reckless driving, and operating a motor vehicle with a permit and not being accompanied by a licensed driver.
Solis-Reyes could not be reached for comment.
Friends on Thursday said Davis’ death, while tragic, was a chance to celebrate his life.
Davis was a passionate husband, father, spiritual leader, mentor and runner, Brammer said. Davis ran so hard once that he caught his foot on a tree root and broke his femur, Brammer said.
A family member joked recently that Davis “would miss his own funeral to go on (Thursday’s) run,” he said.
“To see this, it’s so healing,” Brammer said as he watched runners raise their arms at the finish line in triumph, soaking wet.
Many runners tied their shoes to the crosswalk signal. Many hugged and cried.
While Davis loved to run, he loved bonding with people more, said Dr. Daniel Atkin, a local chiropractor and friend from church. Atkin is one of several men who used to run with Davis on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Atkin said he and Davis had a special connection.
“But, now that I think about it, I think everyone who knew him thought that about their relationship,” he said.
Davis, a software engineer at SAS in Cary, was the sole provider for his family, which included four children, ages 3 to 11, said Brian Evans, bishop of the Davis’s church.
Since the accident, the family has received an outpouring of support. As of Thursday evening, a memorial fund set up Monday at GoFundMe.com had raised more than $34,000.
While the family is devastated by their loss, Germann said, they are trying to carry on in Davis’ spirit.
“There is absolutely zero ill will to the young man,” Germann said, referring to Solis-Reyes. “In fact, they made it a practice to pray for him and his family, that they’ll be able to get through this process.”
Mormons believe that they will be reunited with family members in an afterlife, Brammer said.
“That’s why, in one way, there is hope,” Brammer said.
Brammer hugged one runner after another as they reached the shoe-adorned posts. It was still raining as the last runners finished. But by then, the sun had come out.
Jessica Banov contributed to this report.
Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 590 Bryan Drive, Apex.
A memorial fund in Davis’ name is at http://www.gofundme.com/t4yk2j3u.