‘A shining light’: Community gathers to honor doctor, wife, grandchildren killed in York County shooting

Rock Hill vigil
Rock Hill vigil(WBTV)
Updated: Apr. 11, 2021 at 8:09 PM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Family, church leaders, community members, friends shared their stories.

They were speaking to a community, hundreds of people, who came to a Rock Hill park Sunday evening to honor a family who died in a mass shooting Wednesday afternoon.

The Rock Hill community is hurting and mourning the unfathomable.

Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, his wife Barbara Lesslie, 69, and their grandchildren - 9-year-old Adah and 5-year-old Noah - were found dead inside a home on Marshall Road shortly after 4:30 p.m.

The community sang, prayed and linked arms.

People who attended were asked to wear bright colors because the family said Adah Lesslie, 9, and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie were “bright lights.”

“They were both a shining light to so many,” said Rev. John Oliphant, pastor at First ARP Church in Rock Hill.

Family members spoke out for the first time.

Caris, the granddaughter of Dr. Lesslie and Barbara Lesslie, read an emotional letter written by her grandma last week for her 16th birthday.

“You were created by God for a purpose, with gifts and talents no one in this universe will ever have,” Caris said reading the letter. “You are one of those people who are destined to have an impact on the world. God knows just who he created you to be. He has the best for you in this life, in the next, all mapped out that will bring you joy, fulfillment and happiness. You are a blessing. You are a gift. You a deeply and unconditionally loved. I’m so blessed to be your nana.”

Rock Hill vigil
Rock Hill vigil(WBTV)

Then the Lesslie’s children spoke - Lori Alexander, Amy Kulbok and Robbie Lesslie.

Kulbok spoke about Adah’s passion to sing.

In fact, Adah wrote a song not long before she died.

Rock Hill vigil
Rock Hill vigil(WBTV)

Kulbok recited those words, from a song called “You and me.”

“You and me, we can love one another, even through the hardest times, even through the darkest days,” Kulbok said reading words from Adah’s song. “We can love one another, even in the deepest fog. We will find one another and love each other. When people see us, they will see Jesus Christ in you and me.”

The “Community Prayer Vigil” started at 6 p.m. and lasted about an hour.

The outdoor service included music, prayer and words of remembrance and hope. Candles and bubbles were provided.

The family asked for people attending to bring a donation or non-perishable food and/or children’s books for local food banks and neighborhood library boxes in honor of Adah and Noah.

The children and Dr. Lesslie and Barbara Lesslie were found dead inside the home, sending shock throughout York County and across the nation.

Two HVAC technicians with GSM Services in Gastonia -- James Lewis and Robert Shook - were also shot.

A vigil is being held Sunday in honor of victims killed in Rock Hill shooting
A vigil is being held Sunday in honor of victims killed in Rock Hill shooting(Thompson, Adam | WBTV)

Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene, while Shook died Saturday afternoon at the hospital following multiple surgeries.

Philip Adams, the suspected shooter, and former NFL player, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a home down the street, according to York County deputies.

Lewis was a single father of three -- with children younger than 16 years old.

“The old saying, ‘give you the shirt off your back,’ that was James,” Thomas Lewis, James Lewis’ father, told WBTV. “He was a good man. He was my best friend.”

Shook was a husband to Holly, and had three children - Eli (7), Johnny (13) and Keleigh (18).

“He is a hard-working man who put himself through school to become a certified heating and air service worker, to provide for his family,” Heather Thompson, Shook’s cousin told WBTV. “He is just a wonderful, wonderful man.”

For the Lesslie family, Dr. Robert Lesslie was known as a pillar in the community.

Lesslie was a well-known doctor and author who wrote several books related to medicine. He founded the Riverview Medical Center and Riverview House Calls/Riverview Hospice and Palliative Care.

The Lesslie family are long-time members of the First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in downtown Rock Hill. WBTV spoke with Associate Pastor Jon Oliphant. He didn’t want to go on camera out of respect for the family, but told WBTV Dr. Lesslie was an elder for the church. Elders sit on the governing body of the church.

Dr. Lesslie and Barbara also volunteered at Camp Joy, a Christian camp for individuals with disabilities that is coordinated by Christian Education Ministries.

Adah was described in her obituary as “a precocious, riddle-loving, and self-proclaimed book nerd (a title she shared with her Momma). She loved her family and her friends fiercely. Music was Adah’s love language. She was a beautiful soprano who knew every word to every song played on K-Love. Adah was a gentle hugger and prolific snuggler, especially with her Daddo. Adah stumped those she knew with her theological questions. We are sure she is thrilled by finally getting them all answered in Heaven.”

In the same obituary, Noah was described as “mastering the art of physical comedy” and was a tenacious hugger.

“He would offer an unsolicited running hug at any given moment -- and from any direction. He would have crawled into his Momma’s skin while hugging her so tightly if that were an option,” the obituary states. “Noah instantly brightened any room he entered, and he had a knack for knowing when those around him needed to laugh (a skill he learned from his Daddo).”

Since the tragic shooting, the community from near and far have shown support for all the families involved.

There were memorials at the York County Sheriff’s Office, outside Dr. Lesslie’s practice and throughout the Rock Hill community.

There were also memorials for Shook and Lewis outside the GSM Services office in Gaston County.

Cards and letters can be sent to Lesslie Family, PO Box 36306Rock Hill, S.C. 29732; Dr. Robert and Barbara Lesslie:; Adah and Noah Lesslie:

In lieu of flowers, financial gifts can be made to Camp Joy, 918 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Suite 106, Greenville, S.C. 29607.

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