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Shaw Carter remembered: Gainesville, world 'has lost a bright light’

Loved ones celebrate humor, courage of heart recipient, cancer survivor

POSTED: August 10, 2017 8:51 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times, file

Shaw Carter, shown in 2015 after returning to Young Harris College following his bout with lymphoma, died Wednesday. He was 24.

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Family and friends remembered Shaw Carter for his humor and ability to “take everything in stride” while battling a heart condition that led to a transplant, and later contracting lymphoma in his young life.

Carter, 24, died Wednesday, according to Little and Davenport Funeral Home in Gainesville.

After his son was born with a heart defect, Doug Carter asked the cardiologist if Shaw would live to graduate from high school and college. Shaw Carter was a second-year graduate student at the University of Georgia, earning his master’s degree in public administration before suffering a cardiac event Tuesday night in Athens, his father said.

“If Shaw had a philosophy on life, it was that ... he just lived each day and made the most of each day. He was a smart kid, and he knew that there were always going to be challenges with his health and always things like this that could happen. He did a lot of living in those 24-plus years,” Doug Carter said.

Next-door neighbor Alston Troutman said “the world has lost a beautiful soul.”

“I know he impacted thousands of lives with his story and the way he positively lived his life,” Troutman said. “I feel fortunate to have known him and that he and his family have been woven into my life.”

Carter battled a hypoplastic left heart syndrome from infancy and had three open-heart surgeries before his third birthday. He received a heart transplant more than three years ago.

Later he was diagnosed with Posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease, a type of lymphoma, that can come after a transplant of bone marrow or any organ.

Carter was active in speech, debate and theater at Gainesville High School and later graduated from Young Harris College with a degree in business and public policy.

Christi Conti-Holloway, who was Carter’s speech and debate teacher and coach at Gainesville High, remembered that he used his humor to deal with his illness and make others feel comfortable.

“He was hilarious,” Conti-Holloway said. “When we would give speeches, he was small in stature, and so he would be the first one to make a joke and break the ice. He always had a great attitude. Not just Gainesville, but the whole world has lost a bright light. He was just a great young man.”

Two weeks ago, Carter spent a week as a counselor at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Camp Independence, which serves children and teens who have received life-saving organ transplants.

“So many people were touched by his story and his courage and his sense of humor in dealing with a life of medical adversity. I had so people tell me that my friendship or association with Shaw made me a better person, because it allowed me to keep life in perspective,” Doug Carter said.

Tyler Puckett, a friend who said he knew Shaw Carter most of his life, said his friend handled his health challenges by taking “everything in stride.”

“He’s been through a lot through all his conditions and surgeries,” Puckett said. “Throughout it all, he has been one of the happiest, brightest characters. He likes to joke around and be a character. The last several years after his transplant he blossomed into a young man; he felt good and looked great.”

Carter’s world history teacher Rick Howard recalled a daily “big smile on his face,” noting the young man’s positiveness and determination.

“Whatever he was facing, whether it was his health, a test, or anything, he would just get to work on it and do it,” Howard said. “He brought so many good things to my class and Gainesville High School. I am just very fortunate that I got the chance to know him and have in my class.”

Graham Ward, who said he grew up with members of Carter’s family, called him an “inspiration.”

“I just remember him as being one of the sweetest, well-spirited, funny, always optimistic, always striving to overcome the sickness that he had,” Ward said. “I would just think of him as one of the most inspiring young men ever to face such a terrible condition and to succeed in such a positive way.

Shaw really touched the lives of many people with his humor and his positive outlook on things. I always thought of Shaw as a funny young man who kind of defied all odds against the sickness and accomplished so much.”

Staff writers Norm Cannada and Nick Watson contributed to this story.



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