Candlelight vigil held for John Materna, known as ‘Red the Watermelon Man’

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 7:43 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2023 at 11:26 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Berclair residents organized a candlelight vigil for 76-year-old John “Red” Materna Sunday night, less than a week after the fruit vendor succumbed to injuries sustained last month.

A staple and beloved mainstay in his community, John Materna, affectionately known as “Red the Watermelon Man,” would set up shop around Memphis and sell the fruit every morning from his truck for the past 30 years.

Family and friends of the vendor caused the vigil to pay homage to the man that stood for so much. The man who burned so brightly and boldly, illuminating the community with his love and passion.

John Materna and his wife
John Materna and his wife(Action News 5)

“It makes us angry,” said Daniel Materna. “But he wouldn’t want us to be mad right now. He’d want us to continue to show love and support out here.”

“Our dad was compassionate,” said Materna’s son Steve Materna. “He sat on this corner and waved at everyone. He loved the kids the most.”

“Every day [he would] share some love he had,” said Daniel Materna. “He was a kind person. He would give anything to anyone and wave to everybody. Show some of that.”

Materna’s family hopes the Berclair community keeps passing along Materna’s message of compassion and hospitality well after their father’s life was taken.

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