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Zaevion Dobson remembered this Christmas five years after heroic death

The 15-year-old’s family remembers his heroism, five years after he died shielding his friends from what police said was random gunfire
Zaevion Dobson remembered this Christmas, five years after his heroic death
Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 2:41 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 3:02 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - It has been five years since Zaevion Dobson put the small community of Lonsdale in the national spotlight. Not because of how the 15-year-old died, but because of how he lived in his final moments.

Knoxville police said Dobson died shielding two friends from random gang-related gunfire and the victims were picked at random.

“That night, when it happened to my son, it was Christmas time. I wasn’t expecting that. He was expecting to go shopping and have a good Christmas, but it was all taken away. It hurts and it was painful,” said Zaevion’s mother, Zenobia Dobson.

Zenobia said the two girls who her son gave his life to protect now have babies of their own. Lives that may not have happened had her son’s final act on earth been different.

“It makes me proud of him, it gives my heart peace. To know my son, he did all this. His purple heart, he’ll wear it forever,” she said.

Zaevion’s name has been spoken all across the country. He was honored posthumously with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2016 ESPY awards. Millions watched during the 2016 Super Bowl as CBS Sports revisited the night of Zaevion’s death.

Fulton High School remembered his spirit with an eight-foot version of no. 24, his football number, on the football field. The Fulton Falcons retired his jersey on the school’s senior night in October 2017.

The Zaevion Dobson Memorial Foundation was established in 2016 to “promote and provide recreational and educational facilities for underserved communities.” It awards a $2,400 scholarship to a Fulton graduate every year.

The foundation donated $10,000 to the Knoxville Change Center, a safe place for teenagers, an idea birthed in the wake of his death.

“Knowing that he didn’t die in vain, he saved lives, he made a sacrifice and it says in the Bible, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,’ and that’s what he did and God gave him the reward of everlasting life,” said Zaevion’s oldest brother, Markastin Taylor. “His heart was bigger than his whole body, he was a big kid but his heart was even bigger than he was.”

Each Christmas Zenobia decorates a tree in her late son’s honor. She decorated her home for the holiday this year for the first time since he passed.

“I wanted to reflect on his memories. I was looking at pictures of him and he was just smiling and he was like, ‘mom just go ahead and do it, do what makes yourself happy in my memory,” she said.

The comfort she has found this season is a gift from her son, Zaevion, his presence.

“I will always love you and I know that you’re an angel, you’ll always be watching over us. Keep it 24 strong,” she said.

Three men were convicted in relation to Dobson’s death.

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