Artists, community come together in memory of Joey Deweese
Many residents of the Triad were affected, in one way or another, by the sudden death of High Point’s Joey Deweese last month.
According to a media release by the High Point Police Department, on July 7, police received multiple calls reporting that a car was traveling the wrong way on the interstate. The release stated that Serenity L. Givens, 32, was allegedly traveling Northbound in Southbound lanes on Business 85 and struck Deweese, 28, head on just South of the Baker Road exit. The release stated that Deweese succumbed to his injuries on July 8 and died as a result of the crash at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“Preliminary results indicate that alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash,” the release stated. Givens was charged with “Driving While Impaired, Felony Inflicting Serious Injury with a Motor Vehicle While DWI and having previously been convicted of a DWI (20-141.4(a4), and Driving on a Revoked License.”
Deweese’s fiancee Paisley Sellick and his two best friends, Joshua Harris and Joshua Duncan, are among the many that have expressed grief with his passing.
Sellick said she and Deweese just recently got engaged and moved in together. After four years of dating, they only lived under the same roof for four days.
“He just paid rent that morning on this little trailer next to his mom’s, because she was really sick and he always wanted to be around to take care of her,” Sellick said. “I would call it his trailer and he would call it our house. So, for about four days we lived together in the cutest little trailer you have ever seen, and we were house shopping.”
Sellick said on the night of the wreck they were traveling home from an evening out in separate cars and seconds after he blew a kiss and winked at her, he was hit.
“There was this huge joke about how late he was, but if he would have been half a second off on the day he got hit, everything would be different,” Sellick said. “For somebody who is always late, he really timed that one just right. And he was three hours late to dinner that night so wonder what would have happened if he were on time.”
Harris said he has known Deweese for 13 years and was his former roommate.
“I felt like it wasn’t real at first,” Harris said. “I freaked out and cried but it didn’t seem real until I got inside. Then it seemed too real. Everyone else said it didn’t seem real but I told them it was the opposite for me, it felt way too real.”
Duncan said he has known Deweese since 1998 and was his former roommate as well.
“It felt like a prank, it didn’t feel real,” Duncan said. “It was really hard to believe that it happened.”
Sellick, Harris and Duncan all described Deweese as intelligent, fiercely loyal, fun-loving, creative, funny, positive, stubborn and always late. He loved his mother and loved taking care of her. He worked as a fabricator and a car painter. He enjoyed frequent trips to The Milkshake Store (what he called Cook Out) for an extra peanut butter, strawberry (or blueberry) cheesecake milkshake. He took a long time to get dressed and would change his outfits frequently. His favorite music artist was The Weeknd, but he had a soft spot for Sarah McLachlan (specifically the song, “In the Arms of an Angel”). He enjoyed getting tattoos at Greensboro’s Legacy Irons Tattoo Co. And, of course, he loved “big booty.”
“Honestly, he was one of the smartest people I have met and he was very quiet and he’d sit and he just listen and if you got him talking, he was just so smart,” Sellick said. “Yes, he is head to toe in tattoos. He had these huge earlobes. When he wasn’t smiling he had a mean mug, but he was usually smiling. And he was just so incredibly smart.”
Sellick said her fondest memories of Deweese are all of her memories with him. She said he would tell her stories while she showered so that he would stay awake and spend more time with her after her workouts.
“He would sit on the toilet and he would tell me a story the whole time no matter how long my shower was,” she said. “It would go from personal stories to like really ridiculous stories about his friends. The last time he broke the entire plot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into four plots. So I got four shower stories. He would just tell me with sound effects and it was just so cute because he was just so creative but he never let it out. I had all these stories every time I got into the shower. And I got very used to that. It is very heartbreaking right now. He was such a nerd [who] told the best stories.”
Harris said his fondest memory of Deweese was being his roommate and having to speed up the “pretty boy” who took hours to get ready. Harris said he most enjoyed their grooming routine each week where they would cut each other’s hair.
“We played video games together, and we would always have this debate on how he said or claimed that he could beat Super Metroid faster than me,” Harris said. “So we always said we would race, T.V. to T.V., and I would have won, but we never did it. And that is one of my biggest regrets that we never got to do that.”
Duncan said one of his fondest memories of Deweese was when they lived together and would just hang out.
“We lived on a corner house in Greensboro and we would sit out there for hours and people-watch,” Duncan said. “We’d make up weird scenarios about what they were doing and what their life was like. We’d be freestyling a story about a total stranger walking past us.”
Local artists Jordan Morris, Brian Lewis, Spencer Elles, Heather Platts as well as others and even artists outside the state (Sue Smith from Virginia @mellon.milk and Rebekah Bloomfield from New Zealand @bexbloomfield) have come together to show their support through art. Some drew/painted portraits and some donated their art and time to raise money for the family. Morris took commissions to help benefit the Deweese family and has used recent past community markets (such as the one held at the Bearded Goat on July 21) to take up donations.
“I hadn’t seen him in like a year,” Morris said of his most recent encounter with Deweese. “My starter went out in front of his house and he came out and instantly knew what it was, he just dropped [everything] and got it fixed.”
Lewis painted Deweese on the back of Greensboro’s Mother Tucker’s Eatery, located at 1642 Spring Garden St., to honor his memory and “give his loved ones a place to visit him.” A small vigil consisting of Cook Out milkshake cups, candles, flowers, pictures and 40-ounce beer bottles still line the wall below the mural today.
“I didn’t know how much it would help, but I knew it could possibly help strengthen [the community] and have a place for them to visit him,” Lewis said. “To be knocked out, that quick, off the face of the Earth, that is the worst part. He is just gone and you can’t see him anymore. So [it’s] good just having a spot like that, I just hate that it is by a dumpster.”
Lewis said he is looking for a bigger space for another Deweese mural and would like to find someone willing to donate supplies and a wall or space preferably in a high bar-traffic area.
“I want it to make a statement that towers over everybody and you can’t help but to look at it,” he said. “Maybe, someone will feel that guilt just by looking at it and not make stupid decisions. It is one of those things that I think can do us a lot of good while honoring a very good person.”
These local artists weren’t the only ones to extend support, other local businesses such as The Humble Bee Shoppe in Winston-Salem gave a portion of their sales (and even made Deweese’s favorite dessert, banana pudding) to the family for their expenses. In the near future, Nate Hall (Deweese’s tattoo artist and member of Old Heavy Hands) said he is thinking about doing a benefit concert as well as a tattooing event to help raise more money and remember Deweese. Sellick said she would love to get a few tribute tattoos such as “Fight Hard,” (the tattoo Deweese had on his chest), on the backs of her thighs, and a crown on her wedding ring finger. Harris said he wants to get “Aww Mell” on his toes, because of an inside joke he had with Deweese about a similar and unfinished tattoo Deweese had on his toes that said “Aww Hell.”
Duncan, Sellick and Harris said dealing with Deweese’s death has been difficult, but seeing his face in different works of art has been inspiring.
“It is what I imagine losing a limb feels like,” Duncan said. “Like you go to move your hand and you don’t have a hand anymore. You can still feel it there and in your subconscious, you know it is there, but it is really not. And that is how it has been, like I see something funny on the internet, and want to share it with him. I have accidentally sent him a few Instagram messages already. I can’t wrap my head around him being gone.”
“Your brain tries to normalize itself, it is like a glitch in a video game,” Sellick said. “It wants to reset but it’s like, it will never reset to how it was. He was a part of literally everyday for me and even the year he and I did not speak like I always thought about him 24/7. So now that he’s dead, my brain is doing what it normally does but what it normally does is think about Joey.”
“I am sure he does not want us sitting down and crying every day but I know Paisley has cried and I have too, the first week I was upset constantly,” Harris said. “It feels weird to be back to doing normal things, I almost feel guilty going on with my life, going to work, and things cause I feel like I am supposed to stop and the whole world should stop too. I know that is not the case and I know Joey would not have wanted that.”
Duncan and Sellick said they will continue to take donations for the family via Venmo at @Joshua-Duncan-14 and @PaisleyGraceSellick.
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.