Despite a heavy heart from the news that her son’s killer, Pablo Flores Jr., had been granted parole from prison last week, Susan Rawlinson’s spirits were lifted high like the balloons that were launched in memory of her late son, Steven Jones, last Friday by scores of his family and friends – many of whom are now shockingly grown up and still return every year in large numbers for the tribute.
“The person who took Steven’s life has now been granted parole after eight years, and he’ll be out and can go on with his life,” she said matter-of-factly. “I’m not worried about that though, because I know Steven is in bliss. And none of you have forgotten or left me.”
Jones, then 21, was walking on Medford Street on May 7, 2013 on his way to meet his mother for dinner when he saw a fight break out on Monument Street between two men he didn’t know. As he tried to stop the fight and calm the two men, Pablo Flores Jr. produced a gun and shot Jones at close range twice. Though he had been charged with second-degree murder, he eventually pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm, and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. That got him a sentence of 8-12 years, and last week, according to Jones’s family, he was paroled.
That was certainly a conversation in the background of the annual balloon launch, which this year featured biodegradable balloons in concert with being environmentally friendly, that took place Friday, May 7, in Eden Street Park next to Jones’s memorial bench. But the story front-and-center was the support that has never stopped.
“It’s eight years later and we’re all still here,” she told the crowd gathered. “I want to thank you, everyone, for all the love you’ve given to me. We’re not guaranteed life. We could be gone in 24 hours. If you have anything with anyone during the day, resolve it before the sun goes down. All of you are so grown. You are all grown up now and you never left me.”
So it was some eight years ago that Jones’s friends rallied around him, dozens and dozens of them showing up in Suffolk Superior Court downtown as teen-agers and those in their early 20s. Now, year in and year out, those young people are in their late 20s and early 30s. Some now have their own families, and others have moved on to adult life.
Yet, no matter what is going on in their lives, and no matter how much they’ve changed or where they have gone to, Rawlinson said they always come back for Steven Jones.
On May 7 every year, Rawlinson said, one will always find her son’s friends gathered on the hill in Eden Street Park with balloons in their hands for a tribute that has never faded despite the years.
It was again the case last Friday.