About 75 fans trickled into Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale Wednesday morning to pay their respects to Michael Jackson five years after he died from an overdose of a powerful anesthetic propofol.
Thousands of dew-covered roses and love letters from as far away as Japan and Germany written to the late King of Pop covered the grass leading up to the Great Mausoleum, his final resting place.
The sight of it all sent tears to Donna Holmes’ eyes. It was her first time visiting.
The 56-year-old, Bronx, N.Y., resident followed Jackson’s career from his days with the Jackson 5.
“He didn’t put a song out to put a song out,” she said. “There was always one song on his record to raise awareness about an issue.”
And whatever the message may have been — from world hunger to tolerance to peace — his fans caught on, and some still live with the message in their hearts.
Holmes called the charity work that thousands of Jackson fans do, “Michaeling.” In and around the Bronx, Holmes teams up with hundreds of fans to feed the homeless each year or collect pajamas for children before their first night in foster care.
“That’s what Michael was good for, bringing people together,” she said.
Doctors attributed the 50-year-old singer’s death to an overdose of propofol administered at his home by his personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray a few weeks before Jackson’s much-anticipated “This Is It” tour in London.
Mike Polk, 24, said he had planned to attend the concert that never happened. Outside the mausoleum, he donned a black fedora hat. White tape covered the tips of his fingers. A leather belt, similar to the one on Jackson’s “Bad” album cover, buckled around his waist. And Polk’s look wasn’t complete without the thick white socks and black loafers.
The Toledo, Ohio, resident obliged Jackson fans who smiled, asking for a picture.
“His music runs through my veins,” Polk said. “I love the humbleness of him. He loved to give. It makes me want to put more work into my work back home.”
Iris Finsterle, of Munich, Germany, credits Jackson as her inspiration for creating Bridge of Hope for Dogs In Need, a small rescue organization that places dogs from high-kill shelters into homes internationally.
Jackson’s generosity also led her to pay the school tuition for two girls — one lives in Namibia and the other in Mozambique.
“He changed my life,” Finsterle, 55, said of Jackson. She pointed to a tattoo with the initials MJ, topped with a crown, on her left arm.
“He tried to change people’s minds and make them think globally. We can show we’ll never forget him,” she said.
And people like Holmes won’t. She said she’ll make sure her great-grandchildren will know who Jackson was, and so will people 500 years from now. She blotted her tears with a crumbled tissue before looking at adoring fans crowding around the memorabilia and fans donning a single, sparkling glove.
“It shows the impact he had,” she said. “It’s a global love. There’s a legacy that will last.”
Follow Alicia Banks on Twitter: @AliciaDotBanks.