Submitted by Virgil’s sister, Melissa Sheppard

What Virgil was like

Virgil Sheppard at the Hollywood Walk of Fame

He loved the outdoors, and he loved his family more than anything in this world. Virgil was the kindest, most caring person — and he hated a bully. He was the guy always taking up for the weak.

One time he saw a teenage autistic boy getting punched by his dad. Virgil ran in the yard and punched the dad a couple times. He took the boy with him for the day, introduced him to all his friends. My brother protected him after that. Anytime that boy needed anything, he came looking for my brother.

How Virgil would want to be remembered

For his heart of gold and the good memories he made with people.

What was most important to him

No material thing held value to Virgil — the only thing he valued was family and friends. He loved his children and spending time with his nephews and nieces. He had a different bond with each of his six siblings and made them feel special to him. When we get together, we all talk about him, and every one of us feels like we were super close to him — like he was our best friend.

It was the same with all the girls from his past. He always made everyone feel special. He really loved who he loved. Too many people don’t actually love people like they should. He was one of the ones that did.

That’s how it is with people who are suffering. They always try to make everyone around them feel better than how they feel.

Virgil’s ‘demons’

He had what my dad calls the “evil twins” — depression and anxiety. He self-medicated. That’s what he did to be able to deal with it.

Finding out that drugs were part of his life

He pretty much experimented with different pills and cocaine when he was a teenager. But I didn’t understand that he had a real problem until about six months before he died.

He lived in Marengo, which is a small town. He came to visit us in Columbus, and my mom called me and said someone had found him in an alley. He had overdosed, and someone found him just in time to save him with Narcan.

I was so confused. And then I began to realize how bad his problem was.

How our relationship changed because of opioid-use disorder

I believe we got closer. I never judged him for his struggles, and I always tried to understand the fight he was fighting.

How Virgil fought opioid-use disorder

He went to a treatment facility where he got turned away because he didn’t have insurance. He would try to fight his addiction cold turkey, but his addiction was just too strong. He was 32 days clean when he relapsed, and it killed him.

He shot up what he thought was heroin, but it was a mixture of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and cocaine. The police said he had gotten ahold of something that he didn’t even know what he had. It went straight to his heart and killed him.

After he passed, our family said we’re always going to be trying to find ways to help bring about awareness of these issues, so he didn’t die for no reason.

He is missed so much. He left such a void in all our lives.

About the photo

Virgil loved singing karaoke. He always spent any free time singing with his best friend, Bucky, and sister Christina.

He was also a super big fan of Tom Petty. He worked in demolition, and about a year before he died, he was actually out in Los Angeles for his job. And on one of his breaks that day, he went to see all the stars, and he took a picture with Tom Petty’s.

Something you should know about Virgil

He hated being an addict. He would never want to be remembered for that.

If I could say one thing to Virgil, it would be

I love you.