INWOOD — They came from all walks of life to pay their respects: friends, relatives and neighbors mourning together with fellow clothing designers and dog-lovers.
Whatever their differences, scores of Inwood residents came together as one Sunday to say good-bye to Will Alicea, the popular artist known as Will Teez.
"We like to think that we have the most of him," said Alicea's daughter, Devon. "But he's everybody's. It makes it so much easier to not take this as a loss."
Hundreds of loved ones packed Inwood Hill Park Sunday afternoon, recalling personal memories that underscored how Alicea had left a mark on their lives.
"The other day in class they asked me: 'Who are your mentors?'" one mourner recalled. "The first person that came to my mind was Will. I feel like I learned so much from him in such a short amount of time."
Another resident, Ryan, remembered meeting Alicea for the first time when he bought a T-shirt from him.
"He greeted me as if I had known him his whole life," Ryan said. "And I didn't understand it at first, but as I got to know him it just opened my eyes to what a great person he was."
Alicea, who was known for his brand of Inwood-centric clothing, died Wednesday after a prolonged battle with leukemia, a struggle that touched resident so deeply that members of the community raised more than $25,000 to help pay for his medical bills.
As news of his death became public, loved ones took to Facebook and social media to offer heartfelt condolences.
By Sunday, the sidewalk surrounding a shrine in Alicea's memory on West 218th Street and Indian Road had become an open letter from residents to Alicea, with dozens of messages of sadness and gratitude drawn in chalk for all to see.
"Thank you Will," one message read.
"One love, Will," read another.
The outpouring of support was symbolic of Alicea's legacy, his daughter said.
"This is exactly what he would have wanted," Devon Alicea said. "It really felt more like a celebration of a life than a grieving of a death."