May 3, 2014 11:05:00 PM
A life-long Columbus advocate, businesswoman and volunteer has died.
Vanessa Carter, 52, passed away unexpectedly Wednesday.
Carter owned Carter's Funeral Home in Columbus. She was also heavily involved in organizing local concerts, including the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival.
Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem remembers Carter as not only a friend, but an inspiration.
"She meant a lot to this community," Karriem said. "She had a kind heart. She was a sweet person. She was full of life and if you knew her you just loved to be around Vanessa. Words cannot describe Vanessa Carter.
"I hate that she's gone but I do understand that the body is just a transition. As long as we keep her legacy, she'll live on. She meant so much to so many people and she helped so many people; she's going to be remembered for that."
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith described Carter as a humble woman who wold "give you the shirt off her back."
"Anytime there was an event or a festival should would donate the use of her limos free of charge," Smith said. "Then when somebody died, if the family couldn't afford it, she would work with them. She was a very kind, generous lady who will be greatly missed."
Johnathan West, Carter's son, said his mother leaves a legacy of love and compassion.
"Mom was a loving lady," West said. "Our family was a small family, but we just grew up loving everyone. She had a special connection with anyone she came in contact with. She treated everyone as family."
West said his mother was constantly smiling and had a positive outlook on life.
"It's just the love and the caring and the willingness to help someone and to see someone have a smile. She was inviting, she was everything. That was mom."
Carter's youngest son, Marcus West, said he has been moved by the outpouring of love and support he and his brother have received since his mother's death.
"I can't tell people thank you enough," Marcus West said. "We deeply, deeply appreciate everything. I'm seeing it as I walk, as I go to dinner, as I drive on the streets. I'm seeing it when I'm in the stores: People just come to tears just talking about my mom. It's kind of unreal when you talk to people and you see how she touched everyone. You hear the same story all day long, but it's touching every time I hear it. At the same time, it just reminds me of how special she was and what you don't have anymore, but it's warming to know just what she was to people."
Johnathan West said he, too, has heard multiple stories about how his mother impacted someone's life.
"She paid attention to the little details and I think that made her a special person," he said. "She was compassionate and met everyone with open arms. Those are all things I've known about, but to hear each person; all their stories are the same."
Columbus Parks and Recreation Programs Director Greg Lewis first met Carter in 1980. Lewis said he will always remember her warmth and willingness to listen. But more than anything, he will remember Carter's desire to help those in need.
"She was always willing to give what she could to make someone's situation better," Lewis said. "Regardless of the situation, if you went to Vanessa for help she was going to do everything she could to help. That was just her day-to-day living. She was just that kind of person."
Lewis said Carter's passing is a sad event for Columbus.
"I think it's absolutely a loss," he said. "There's a loss in there that's going to touch a lot of people in our community. Perhaps that's why the community is so sad at the loss of Vanessa."
Services will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at Columbus High School. Burial will be Saturday morning at 10 at Union Cemetery.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah
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