'Thank you for letting us have her': 16-year-old Mount Prospect girl laid to rest
A community in mourning remembered 16-year-old Alyssa Lendino on Tuesday as a young lady already demonstrating the character and life skills of the woman she was becoming.
"The seeds were beginning to bloom and we could see the future blossoming," her godfather, Danny Smith, read from the eulogy written by her grieving parents for the teen's funeral services. "She was becoming a beautiful, capable young woman."
The Mount Prospect teen was killed July 21 when her family's SUV was struck from behind by a car traveling 107 mph at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Hintz Road in Wheeling. Also injured were her parents, Michelle and Tony, and 12-year-old sister, Amanda, who attended Tuesday's funeral still wearing casts and in a wheelchair.
Alyssa's parents wrote of her inner drive to work as both a lifeguard for the River Trails Park District and a food service worker at Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights, using much of the money she made to take her younger sister out for meals.
Alyssa was scheduled to begin her junior year today at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, where she dedicated herself to becoming a three-sport athlete in track, bowling and swimming. She also demonstrated an aptitude for architectural design -- evidence of which could be seen in her bedroom.
"The room, like her life, was tidy and orderly," Smith read.
Alyssa was replacing her early shyness with a new silliness that her parents wrote would be missed by all. Born on Dec. 23, 2001, and brought home two days later, Alyssa was called the best Christmas present her parents ever received.
"Thank you for letting us have her," an emotional Smith read.
The Rev. James Presta, pastor of St. Emily Catholic Church in Mount Prospect, said Alyssa always strove to do her best and became a greater athlete and big sister to Amanda.
"She was a kind person, always with a smile on her face," Presta said. "According to her parents, one of her favorite sayings was, 'I love you to the moon and back.'"
He added that such tragedies can be a struggle to try to fathom.
"I still find it difficult as a priest and her pastor to make sense of Alyssa's death," Presta said.
But referring to the scriptures read during the funeral Mass, Presta said those who loved her should not become fixated on Alyssa's death.
"Even in the midst of such turmoil, let us listen to the voice of the good shepherd," Presta said. "Let us be grateful for this young woman, Alyssa Lendino, who touched our lives and will never be forgotten."
The funeral procession to All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines was led by police vehicles from Mount Prospect, Wheeling and Chicago.
The man accused of causing the fatal crash, 30-year-old Adam Grunin of Wheeling, is charged with reckless homicide. Police said the collision occurred while he was fleeing another crash.