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Nelson and his mother remembered in candlelight vigil in Canton

There was a candlelight vigil in memory of Raheim Dantae Berry Nelson and his mother, Faye Dawson-Judkins, on Thursday night in Canton.

CANTON, Jan. 5, 2023 – The Canton High community came together on Thursday night to remember Raheim Dante Barry Nelson, the junior soccer player who died on Christmas morning with his mother Faye Dawson-Judkins in a two-car accident in West Hartford.

Members of the boys varsity soccer team, two teachers, principal Andrew DiPippo and Bill Phelps, the long-time head coach of the Canton squad, shared memories of their friend, who came to the Canton community just five months ago from Hartford.

A few hundred students and parents moved to the turf field for a candlelight vigil and a walk around the field where Raheim and his friends found and shared so much joy this past season.

Nelson, who came to America in 2020 from Jamaica, heeded the advice of his cousin Khalil Thomas, who was already a student in Canton. Thomas urged his cousin to come to Canton for the education and the chance to play on an exception soccer team, a squad that had gone to the Class S championship game a year earlier. Nelson shared his memories of his cousin with the assembled crowd.

Raheim’s aunt Latoya Gordon – Khalil’s mother — shared how thrilled that her nephew was when he got the opportunity to come to Canton.

Raheim fit right in. In 2020, he earned All-State honors as a freshman at Weaver High. But he didn’t bring an attitude or a sense of entitlement when arrived on the Canton campus this August. He brought a smile, a willingness to play hard and some exceptional speed on the field.

He scored 12 goals this past season. He had a goal and an assist in the final game of the season when Canton was eliminated from the Class S tournament on penalty kicks by East Hampton.

Students, parents and friends walk around on the track around the soccer field in Thursday night’s candlelight vigil in Canton.

The memories shared on this January evening were not ones of athletic achievements but ones of fellowship, fun and love.

“His gift to me was to know him, to coach him, play soccer with him, laugh with him, to dance with him,” Phelps said. “It is a gift we’ll all keep forever.”

A wake for Raheim and Faye will be Friday, Jan. 6, from 4-7 p.m. at The Lodge Community Chapel at 130 Deerfield Road in Windsor. A celebration of Raheim and Faye’s life will be on Saturday, Jan. 7, from 3-6 p.m. at the Lodge Community Chapel in Windsor.

Raheim’s obituary (to be posted soon)

GoFundMe page for funeral expenses

Canton High principal Andrew DiPippo shares memories about Raheim Nelson during Thursday’s candlelight vigil. Before heading outside, students shared memories about Raheim. The gym floor was covered with a few dozen balloons.


Dozens of messages of support for Raheim and his mother, Faye, were on the doors as people entered the Canton High gym Thursday for a candlelight vigil ceremony.


Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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