'His heart was huge and he loved big': Family, co-workers pay respects to Henry Pratt shooting victim
Russell Beyer's life was cut way too short, but it was filled with care and concern for family and friends, said those who gathered Friday to pay respects to the 47-year-old victim of the Feb. 15 shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora.
Dozens of family members, friends and co-workers packed Dieterle Memorial Home in Montgomery for funeral services, followed by a procession to Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Aurora, where Beyer's body was interred.
Beyer, of Yorkville, was born and raised in Aurora, worked more than 25 years at Henry Pratt and was a union shop chairman advocating for workers rights there.
Lovingly called a "gentle giant," Beyer was known for his dedication to his family that included his children, Megan and Brett, parents Theodore and Joyce Beyer, siblings Dawn Beyer and Joshua Beyer Sr., and a nephew and niece, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Dawn Beyer described her brother as the most happy, easygoing and loving person she knew.
"His heart was huge and he loved big," she said amid tears. "I will forever be broken as my best friend, my older brother, my gentle giant was taken from me too soon."
Beyer was one of five employees shot to death in an attack that also injured six Aurora police officers.
Funeral services also were Friday for Vicente Juarez, 54, of Oswego, a stock room attendant and fork lift operator. Juarez left behind his wife of 38 years, Leticia, three children and eight grandchildren.
"Vicente had a passion for working on cars with his sons, and had a soft spot for a particular 1969 Chevy Impala," according to his obituary. Juarez's family asked that reporters not attend the services.
On Saturday, visitation for Clayton Parks, 32, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a chapel service at 2 p.m. at Willow Funeral Home, 1415 W. Algonquin Road, Algonquin. Parks, of Elgin, was human resources manager at Henry Pratt.
Visitation and funeral services for Josh Pinkard, 37, of Oswego, will be held this weekend in Cullman, Alabama. Pinkard, married and the father of three, was plant manager and had worked at the Aurora site for less than a year.
Funeral services were Wednesday for Trevor Wehner, 21, a Northern Illinois University student killed on his first day of internship at Henry Pratt.
Joshua Beyer struggled to "fully comprehend" the tragedy that befell Henry Pratt workers last Friday. He called his brother a hard worker dedicated to helping others at his company.
"His favorite word was advocate," said Joshua Beyer, recalling how Beyer stood by his side through difficult times. "My whole life, he was the best big brother, always there to take care of me when I needed him the most. We fought like brothers, too, but we had each other's back."
Henry Pratt co-worker Steve Cassidy, who knew Beyer for more than 25 years, said Beyer was a "super nice guy."
"He was a very personable person. Looked out for everybody," said Cassidy, who was not at the plant when the shooting occurred. "Everybody's going to miss him. It's just a tragedy."
Overall, Beyer was viewed as a "fun" guy making people laugh through his antics.
The Rev. Kenneth Morell, a relative of Beyer's, urged family and friends to hold onto those treasured memories to help carry them through the grief.
"Family is everything," he said. "Hug your wife when you go to work in the morning. Tell her you love her. Hug your children. Tell them you love them because it can all be gone in a moment."
Morell shared the biblical story of the prophet Job in an attempt to help the crowd make sense of their loss.
"The Bible says, 'Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted,'" he said. "When tragedy hits ... we just gotta somewhat try to trust the Lord that he knows what's best. I wish I had a magic word I could speak today that would give you instant comfort, peace. You can put your faith in him today. Let him give you peace. Let him comfort you. And maybe you'll get the answer you are looking for."