ROCHESTER, Mich. (WXYZ) — For over 70 years, Red Knapps in downtown Rochester has been a staple in the community. Known not just for its milkshakes, but also the friendly smiles of those making them.
None of those smiles shined brighter than Justin Shilling’s.
“Every night, and I'm not joking, every night that he was here, I would have his guests pull me aside and tell me how amazing of a job he did, how great he was with their kids,” Red Knapps owner Matt Kirschner said.
Kirschner says Justin was one of three Oxford students working there. Justin even had his senior pictures taken inside the diner, where he shared his "gift of gab" and contagious bright smile.
“Every time I saw Justin, he always found a way to make me smile, make me laugh and I think that’s a really powerful skill not a lot of people have,” Kirschner said.
It’s a skill he brought everywhere, including to the Oxford bowling team. His coach JR Lafnear describes him as the light that lifted everyone up.
“Justin can brighten a dark room and he can take your frown and turn it upside down," Lafnear said. "He’s just that kid that makes you smile every time you see him.”
On Nov. 30, Justin was shot inside Oxford High School. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died the next day.
“His teammates are obviously devastated," Lafnear said. "We all learned it at the same time. The initial report was he was hit in the leg and then we all learned it was much more serious than that, and we were stunned.”
Even after his death, Justin continues to share his gifts. On Friday as crowds gathered outside the hospital, Justin gave the gift of life by donating his organs. For years to come, his light will continue to shine and somewhere, that bright smile will continue to spread.
“Just a special kid that was taken way too soon,” Lafnear said.