Lawncrest holds vigil for William Glatz

A preacher is standing on a street corner in a white jacket with a megaphone. He is wearing an “I Love Jesus” cap and spouting his message loudly to oblivious passersby on Rising Sun Avenue in Lawncrest.

“I was an alcoholic. I was a drug addict. But I found Jesus and Jesus’ message changed my life,” said Jimmy Gardner, 52, an aspiring Bible teacher from North Philadelphia. “Only in Jesus can we all see the error of our ways and can we find salvation.”

An older woman with sleek gray strands pulled back into a bun ran over to him holding her pink jacket closed with her right hand, informing the megaphone preacher that he was disrupting the vigil for a murdered jeweler being held across the street.

So touched was the megaphone preacher, and so apologetic for his disruption, he joined the others in prayer.

“We are all God’s children,” Gardner said.

The vigil was held Saturday in honor of William Glatz, hosted by pastors from several local churches in front of his former jewelry store, in response to the man’s shocking death during a robbery attempt on Oct. 21. Glatz was 67.

More than 60 people stood in front of the closed store for the prayer vigil liturgy organized by Rev. Richard Robÿn of the Episcopal Trinity Church Oxford.  The vigil started with a procession from Trinity Church down Rising Sun Avenue and ended at the store’s doorstep.

The vigil was done for the victims of crime and for the perpetrators of violent crime, and featured a group prayer, scripture reading, psalm and short meditation, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

“Evil is a problem that has been with us since the beginning,” Father Robÿn said in his sermon. “There are those who are, for whatever reason, are driven to desperation. They lose their good sense. . . and begin to think they can do whatever they want up to and including murder, to get whatever they want.”

On Oct. 21, Kevin Turner, 22, a man with 13 arrests who had escaped from Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Holmesburg on Oct. 12, walked into the jewelry store with an accomplice, police said.

Turner put a gun to a female employee’s head and demanded money from the cash register. When the woman resisted, shouts were heard from the suspects saying “shoot her; shoot her.”

Police said it was at that point that Glatz, of Brook Drive in Holland, emerged from the back of the store with a .357 revolver, exchanging gunfire with Turner, who was shot twice.

Turner, who resided in the 100-block of East Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia, died as a result of his wounds. Glatz, who was shot once in the stomach, was transported to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.

Another man, 27-year-old Obina Onyiah, of the 5400-block of Akron Street, surrendered Wednesday and was held without bail, according to court records. He has been charged with murder and related offenses.

William Glatz Jewelers did business on Rising Sun Avenue for more than 60 years. The store was founded by Glatz’s father, a German immigrant.

Despite opening a second store in the Holland section of Bucks County, Glatz refused to close his family’s Philadelphia location where he once lived above, even as similar family-owned stores around him left the city.

Glatz and his store were a mainstay in the neighborhood and well known to local residents.

“This was the last watch I bought, and I got it from him,” said Lawndale resident Doris Simon, pulling the sleeve of her windbreaker jacket back to reveal the gold watch. “The whole neighborhood is changing. The people, the stores. . . I’m afraid to walk around here by myself because I’m by myself at home, you know. It’s getting scary.”

To those who knew him best, Glatz was a great man who cared about the area and will be missed.

“My whole family bought our wedding rings, engagement rings here. We grew up here,” said Jeff Cairone, a local contractor who had done business with Glatz. “Even when people moved away they would come back to Glatz. It’s a shame. It’s really sad. We will miss him very much.”

Tom Rowan and Gail Austin are students in Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods in partnership with NEast Philly.

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