(HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.) — Memorial services and funerals have begun for the victims of this week’s mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois.
Seven people were killed and dozens injured after a gunman opened fire from a rooftop on the crowd attending the celebration in the Chicago suburb.
As the community continues to grapple with the shock and horror of that day, a former synagogue preschool teacher and two beloved grandfathers are among the first victims of the tragedy to be honored.
Jacquelyn “Jacki” Sundheim, 63, was a beloved worker at her synagogue, North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois. She was known by her colleagues for her infectious smile and great hugs, they said.
The congregation gathered at the synagogue Friday afternoon to celebrate the life of Sundheim, who is survived by her husband and daughter.
Rabbi Wendi Geffen opened with pointed remarks.
“We should not have to be here today,” she told the congregation during the service, which was livestreamed. “There is nothing, not one single thing, that makes us being brought together to mourn for Jacki acceptable. We are horrified. We are enraged, sickened, aggrieved, inconsolable for the terror that has befallen us and robbed us of Jacki.”
But Geffen warned against remembering Sundheim “not by how she lived, but by how she died.”
“We cannot allow that to happen, she said. “While Jacki was alive, her life was beautiful and full, and full of love and joy, meaning, significance. Her legacy is one of kindness and devotion. That’s who Jacki was. And who she will remain to us forever.”
Sundheim’s daughter, Leah Sundheim, called on those gathered to channel their grief, pain and anger into “a drive to help heal our world.”
“Do not let this sadness, this fear, rage, turn you indifferent or bitter towards our world,” she said. “Because the world is darker without my mom in it. And it’s up to us now to fill it with a little extra laughter and help replace her life and love.”
A funeral service was held Friday for Stephen Straus, 88, who was the oldest victim to die in the shooting rampage, according to the Lake County Coroner’s Office. The Chicago native had lived in Highland Park for decades and is survived by his wife, two sons and four grandchildren.
Family and friends gathered Friday afternoon at Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Illinois, following his burial.
“We connect in a national moment with the mourning of those in Highland Park. And now, it has happened to us — these stories that we saw on the news, these stories that seemed so far away and so disconnected is now our story too,” Rabbi Rachel Weiss said at the start of the service, which was livestreamed. “But most of all, we are mourning the life of Stephen Straus.”
Weiss recited words his brother told her: “If there were more people like Steve in this world, the world would be a much better place.”
Straus’ brother remembered his sibling as being fiercely loyal since they were children.
“He was dedicated, honest — goes without saying. Honest beyond words,” Larry Straus said.
Straus’ son, Jonathan Straus, spoke of his father’s kindness, impeccable joke-telling and “irresistible” charm.” He was an “avid lover of the arts” who continued to work five days a week, he said.
“You know what a special person he was,” he said, calling his father his “best friend.” “He still had a lot of zest for life, and I know he had a few more good years in him.”
Straus’ younger son, Peter Straus, remembered his father as a voracious reader, particularly of poetry, biographies, science, nature and history.
“He schooled my brother and I on James Bond, Captain Kirk and ‘2001,’” he said.
A service is also scheduled for Nicolas Toledo, 78, Friday evening at Iglesia Emanuel in Waukegan. The native of Morelos, Mexico, was remembered by family for his humor. “He’d always joke around and be playful with his grandkids,” his grandson, David Toledo, told ABC News in a statement.
A service for the seventh victim to die from injuries suffered in the mass shooting, 69-year-old Eduardo Uvaldo, is scheduled for Saturday. Uvaldo was a grandfather of 13 and a great-grandfather of six. Several of his family members were also at the parade; his 13-year-old grandson, Brian, was shot in the arm and his wife, Maria, was hit in the head by shrapnel, his daughters told ABC News. Both are expected to fully recover, officials say.
Those killed in the shooting also included Katherine Goldstein, 64, a mother of two adult daughters; and husband-and-wife Kevin McCarthy, 37, and Irina McCarthy, 35, who leave behind a 2-year-old son. Details for their services have not been made public.
Robert E. Crimo III, the accused 21-year-old gunman, has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors have said they expect to bring attempted murder charges for each of the more than 30 people wounded in the attack.
Prosecutors said that Crimo III confessed to Monday morning’s parade massacre. He did not enter a plea during a bond hearing on Wednesday.
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