Freeport remembers local activist

Local News

FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Family and community members are remembering a Freeport activist.

Walter Hayward died November 26 after a long battle with kidney failure. He was 45-years-old.

Family and friends of Hayward said that he has left a lasting impact on Freeport. He is known in the community for a number of reasons, whether that was singing, helping kids and teens or standing up for what he believed in.

His family said that he was always working to make a difference, and while he may have passed away, his voice will live on.

A big voice and an even bigger impact made, Hayward would do just about anything to make a difference, his family and community leaders said.

“I mean, gosh you could not stop him,” said Christina Marie Marshall Hartshaw, Hayward’s sister. “He was going to get something accomplished.”

Hayward grew up in Freeport and never left. His sisters, Marshall Hartshaw and Tiffany Marshall Woods, said the father of four was a father figure to dozens of Freeport youth.

“Just to see the amount of young people who .. ‘oh my gosh Mr. Hayward was like a father to me, Mr. Hayward encouraged me, Mr. Hayward came to my track meets, Mr. Hayward lifted me up, Mr. Hayward, Mr. Hayward,” said Marshall Hartshaw. “It was just overwhelming.”

“He knew that he was that first example for those opportunities, for some of the children of Freeport still do not have, but we have to find a way to get our children exposed to seeing our race, black and brown, having those positions,” added Marshall Woods.

Patricia Norman, President of the NAACP Freeport Branch, said that Hayward served on several of their committees, and that he can not be replaced.

“When he had something to say, you listened to him, because he spoke with conviction,” Norman said. “Our organization has only been here since February. Walter has already.. already become an irreplaceable, a key member, of our community.”

Despite his kidneys failing and health declining, Hayward never gave up, according to friends and family.

“We all know that Walter had health issues, but Walter never let that hold him back,” Norman said.

“We never lost his voice, and we will never lose his voice,” added Marshall Hartshaw. “We didn’t have to gain it, because his voice will live on forever.”

Hayward’s family said that he was also extremely involved in local politics and even ran for mayor. His sisters said that they will forever be inspired by Hayward, and hope to follow in his steps.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest News Video

Trending Stories