MANAHAWKIN - A New Jersey man is mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela along with the rest of the world.
The leader heralded for ending apartheid in South Africa died Thursday at the age of 95.
Kyle Marais of Manahawkin says he knew Mandela's death was imminent, but the news still hit him hard.
Marais is "proudly South African," a common term or slogan used by those in his home country. He proudly displays his home country's flag and shows off his South African Rugby jersey.
The jersey is identical to the one Mandela wore in one of his last public appearances in 2010 as he entered the field for the rugby World Cup.
Marais grew up hearing of the segregation and how the black majority had a 9 p.m. curfew. But when he entered school, he experienced the first waves of integration.
"When I started school I had one black girl in my class and ever since then everyone got closer and closer together," Marais says. "Now you don't notice color."
South Africans are celebrating the life of Mandela, a man who spent 27 years in jail labeled a terrorist for fighting apartheid. He became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and brought about democratic elections.
Teboho Moja was appointed by Mandela to lead his higher education commission. He says Mandela's rise to power came with a lesson in dignity.
"Forgiveness and and humanity to each other that's something that is a legacy that we will uphold for many many years to come," Moja says.
The world has stopped to remember Mandela in many ways, including a moment of silence on the stock exchange and flags placed at half-staff.
Marais believes Mandela's legacy will still invoke change and goodwill. "The legacy he has left behind can only make the country better and better," he says.
Marais never met Mandela, but was proud to say that his father once had lunch with the leader, which brought him that much closer to that man he idolized.
Mandela will be memorialized Tuesday in his home country.
For interview Dr. Teboho Moja on passing of Nelson Mandela, watch the clip to the left or click News 12 Extra on Optimum TV channel 612.