Hundreds of friends, colleagues, patrons and others gathered at JR.’s on Sunday to pay tribute to a Nellie’s bartender who passed away earlier this month.
Mourners wore purple arm bands and T-shirts as pictures of David Chung flashed on television screens throughout the bar. A memorial that contained purple and white pompoms and flowers and a bottle of Jameson whiskey with his picture stood near the bar’s entrance—patrons toasted Chung with shots of the Irish spirit throughout the afternoon.
“He was full of love for everyone,” Zachary Wine, who first met Chung when he applied for a job at Nellie’s, told the Blade. “He was one of the most caring individuals I’ve ever had the grace to know. And he carried that not just to the people he was close with, but the people he didn’t know.”
JR.’s manager Dave Perruzza said he will always remember Chung’s smile.
“Every time I saw him there was always a smile on his face,” he said. “That’s the one thing people remember him by.”
Chung, 26, was found dead early on July 8.
Beverly Fields of the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office told the Blade that the cause of death was “asphyxia due to hanging.” She further confirmed that Chung took his own life. Wine said during the memorial service that Chung, who is from Paramus, N.J., had struggled with what he described as suicidal tendencies.
He told the Blade that he decided to publicly discuss Chung’s suicide as a way to help others who may want to take their own lives. “If you care about someone, tell them. If you can’t tell them, show them,” said Wine. “If you can’t show them, make yourself find a way to let the people you care about know, and never stop. I myself am horrible about showing my emotions, but it’s only through being there for someone that we can try to make sure this tragedy doesn’t happen again.”
A 2002 University of California San Francisco study found that rates of suicide attempts among urban gay and bisexual men were three times higher than the overall rate for adult men. The Trevor Project further notes that LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to try to take their own lives than heterosexual teenagers.
Dr. Patricia Hawkins, a clinical psychologist, told the Blade that possible warning signs that someone is contemplating suicide include lethargy, a loss of interest in the future, giving away favorite things and writing a long letter to friends and family. She said the D.C. Department of Public Health, Whitman-Walker Health and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are among agencies that offer resources and other assistance to those who may seek to take their own life.
“If you’re worried about somebody and your gut tells you that something is terribly wrong, trust your instincts,” said Hawkins. “You’re much better to talk with the person about it and bring it up. That little bit of support can make a tremendous difference.”
Chung’s funeral took place on July 12 at the Metropolitan Wesley A.M.E. Church in Northwest Washington. A second memorial service is scheduled to take place at Nellie’s on Thursday with proceeds going to a fund that will help Chung’s sister and brother-in-law pay for their children’s education.
The JR.’s memorial service raised more than $3,000 for the Wanda Alston House, a D.C. organization that provides housing and other services to homeless LGBT youth.