Willowbrook High School, church tribute honors slain family
A dazzling smile. Statuesque beauty. Sterling fashion sense. A great sense of humor.
Those were among the traits recalled during Sunday's special memorial service for the four people killed earlier this month in a murder-arson near Villa Park.
Several hundred family members and friends attended the service to honor Ursula Nailor; her sons Darnell Holt Jr. and Daniel Nailor; and her niece Domonique Robinson.
The four died Jan. 17. Authorities believe Cedric Anderson, Ursula Nailor's on-again, off-again boyfriend, shot the four victims before setting fire to Nailor's DuPage County home. Anderson later was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his father's home in South suburban Dolton.
Leaders of the service, which was held at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park and organized by the school and J.W. James AME Church in Maywood, stressed that the occasion was to be one of celebration and love, not grief and anger. The audience responded with frequent applause, cheers and laughter.
"Wow, what an outpouring of love here!" said the Rev. Garry S. Mitchell Sr., pastor of J.W. James AME Church. "When we all come together, we can triumph over any tragedy, any hardship, any situation."
Sunday's service opened with a fellowship period in which people offered private condolences to the family. Following that, each of the four victims was remembered by loved ones via public tributes.
Several remembered 37-year-old Ursula Nailor's smile, saying it lit up whatever room she entered. Jennea Larkin, Nailor's cousin, said Nailor "loved everybody" and couldn't wait to get dressed up and have fun.
"She was always on a natural high," Larkin said. "Her spirit was just so beautiful."
Darnell Holt Sr. said he was always proud of his 16-year-old son, a freshman at Willowbrook High who had just been coming into his own as a man.
"It's hard because this was my buddy," Holt Sr. said, his voice breaking. "I'll never have a buddy like him again."
The younger Holt, who spent time on Willowbrook's football and wrestling teams, also received tributes from Willowbrook Principal Dan Krause and several coaches. They remembered him as a friendly, upbeat young man who dressed better than anyone in the school.
"Thank you for sharing Darnell with us," Krause said to Holt's father. "He brought so much life to this building."
Scott Jackson, principal of Albright Middle School in Villa Park, said Daniel Nailor, who would've turned 13 on Jan. 20, was a beloved member of the student body and cherished for his ability to make others laugh.
"Every conversation I had with students about Dan ended with people laughing," Jackson said. "He was so well-loved."
Everyone who spoke about 19-year-old Domonique Robinson mentioned her striking height and beauty. Sheila Robinson, Domonique's mother, said she knew her daughter was special even as a young child. She recalled instances when Domonique would sing popular songs for her.
"She was my baby, my heart, my whole world," Robinson said.
Robinson and other family members thanked Willowbrook High School and the larger community for the outpouring of support sent the family's way in the wake of the tragedy.
Memorial funds have been established to honor the victims and assist the family. The Taken Too Soon Memorial Fund, organized with the help of BMO Harris Bank, 17W695 Roosevelt Road in Oakbrook Terrace, is accepting donations. Donations can be made at other BMO Harris branches, too. Email email@example.com for information.
Donations are also being accepted through the Partnership for Inspired Education, P.O. Box 5438, Villa Park, 60181. Email Donna Cain at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.