COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - More than a 100 people gathered at a vigil Wednesday night to honor the life and legacy of community leader Harold Encarnacion, known to many as Lefty.
After struggling with heart and liver issues for several months, Lefty's family says he passed away Tuesday morning at a hospital in Birmingham. People of all ages and ethnicities gathered to honor Lefty and share memories of how he forever impacted their lives.
"I will never forget the faith he had in me, it took me all the way to the Tom Joyner Morning Show," said Matthew Sanchez, who attended the vigil.
Sanchez and others gathered in the parking lot at the old Millie's to mourn.
"We hurt," Sanchez said. "This is an impact on the Hispanic community. We lost a great man."
For more than 20 years, Lefty served the tri-city area with a passion to unite the Latino community, working alongside city councilor Mimi Woodson. Woodson says Lefty's legacy will live on through the Tri-City Latino Festival.
"Times I would want to give up and he would say, 'no, Mimi, we're gonna do it! We're gonna do it!'"
Lefty was having heart and liver issues that ultimately lead to him closing down his business in south Columbus.
Millie's International Market was not only a staple in the Latino community for the cultural items it sold, but also for the opportunities and jobs it provided.
"When I came here I didn't have anything," said Gloria Crespo, former Millie's Market employee. "He gave me an opportunity."
His wife says he impacted more than just Latinos, and she wants him to be remembered as a leader of the entire Columbus community.