RACINE — Printed on Joe Wise’s T-shirt is a picture of he and his son, remnants of shaving cream covering both their faces.
“I was shaving and he came in the room — and I had bought him a little plastic shaving kit for kids — and he was in there doing just like me, shaving just like his daddy,” Wise remembered, looking at the image.
The picture captured one of Wise’s favorite moments with his son, so it was a natural choice for the T-shirt, which Wise got the day after his son’s funeral.
Hunter Wise was only 3 when he died May 10 after being punched in the mouth, whipped and burned in scalding water. His mother’s boyfriend, Marcus A. Johnson, has been charged with the death and his court case is ongoing.
A benefit for Hunter’s family was held Saturday at Curmudgeon’s, 3458 Rapids Drive, to help with hospital and funeral bills. Wise attended and wore his shirt.
“I have to give a big thank you to everybody that’s been here helping,” he said as the event got underway. “Without the family and the support I’ve gotten from all my friends, I don’t think I’d be OK.”
The benefit started at 1 p.m. and went into the evening. About 40 people were there as of 2 p.m. A $10 per-person donation was requested at the door and inside there were raffles, a silent auction and a bake sale, said Emily Mattson, Hunter’s great-aunt and a benefit organizer.
The amount raised was not available as of press time Saturday night.
As Mattson handed out nametags to benefit attendees Saturday afternoon, she shared memories of Hunter.
“He loved his big, big loud trucks,” said Mattson, 37, an administrative assistant from Mount Pleasant. Hunter would play with toy trucks and stop to stare at real ones on the road, she said, adding “he was a typical boy.”
But he was also “a lover,” said Jessica Smith, a family friend with two children Hunter’s age. The three kids would play together and Smith, a 24-year-old patient service representative from Mount Pleasant, mostly remembers the hugs Hunter would give her daughter.
Wise remembers those things too, plus countless other moments.
Some of the memories come and go, popping into the 23-year-old Racine man’s head on different days. There is one memory that is persistent though, and comes to mind most. It’s the memory of cuddling with his son before bed.
Wise, who works at Great Lakes Tree & Clearing in Union Grove, spoke of their bedtime ritual with a shake of his head and a small smile Saturday, as if it was easy talking about the boy he lost. But his eyes gave him away. They clouded as he pictured a memory now only he holds.
As Wise turned to talk with a newly-arrived benefit attendee, the back of his shirt stood out. It read, “R.I.P. Hunter J. Wise 12-18-09, 5-10-13.”
How To Help
Donations for the family of Hunter Wise can be made through Educators Credit Union, where a Hunter Wise benefit fund has been set up. Donations will go toward funeral and hospital bills and, if money is left over, toward the efforts of Racine organizations that help prevent child abuse.