Funerals for Highland Park shooting victims begin: ‘We are inconsolable’


Mourners began the harrowing task of saying goodbye to the victims of the Highland Park shooting on Friday, cherishing what made their loved ones special while speaking out against the sudden and senseless violence that ended their lives.

Jacquelyn “Jacki” Sundheim, 63, and Steve Straus, 88, both of Highland Park, were memorialized at separate funerals on Friday, the first to be laid to rest among seven people killed when a gunman opened fire Monday at the local Fourth of July Parade. A visit also took place on Friday evening for Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, who was visiting his family in Morelos, Mexico.

Katherine Goldstein, 64, of Highland Park, was also killed; Irina McCarthy, 35, and her husband Kevin McCarthy, 37, who also lived in Highland Park and left behind a 2-year-old son; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69, of Waukegan. More than 30 other people were also injured in the massacre, including an 8-year-old boy who was seriously injured and a CPS teacher, who was shot dead along with her husband, father and brother-in-law.

During Friday’s services, daughters, sons, siblings and grandchildren shared their rage and disbelief, but also their determination that the horrors of their loved ones’ deaths take nothing away from the beauty of their life.

“If there is a purpose to this day moving forward,” Rabbi Wendi Geffen said of Sundheim, “it is to ensure that his memory will remain as a blessing only and entirely, now and forever”.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe on Friday morning to honor Sundheim, who not only worked there for decades but was a lifelong member. Among those paying their respects were Governor JB Pritzker, who also attended Straus’s funeral and the Toledo-Zaragoza tour, and U.S. Representative Brad Schneider, who had prepared to take part in the parade on Monday when the gunshots fire started.

Speaking through tears, Geffen opened Sundheim’s service saying, “We invite you to just be with us. We shouldn’t be here today. There is nothing, not a single thing that makes our gathering to mourn Jacki acceptable. We are horrified. We are furious, disgusted, wronged, inconsolable for the terror that fell on us and stole Jacki from us.

“Jacki died because she was murdered, and in that we have no comfort to take away as we mourn Jacki’s death. There is no silver lining, no light above the darkness “said Geffen.

Sundheim taught preschool at North Shore Congregation Israel and, as a coordinator of events such as bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and funerals, touched many lives in the community.

“There wasn’t an inch of that space that Jacki didn’t touch,” Geffen.

She spoke of the volumes of pain and despair that Sundheim’s loved ones feel, and the risk of “only seeing Jacki’s life at the end. … We cannot allow this to happen,”

Later, Rabbi Lisa Greene recounts Sundheim’s journey as a devotee, from infancy through adolescence, leading groups of young people to eventually join the staff.

Sundheim’s survivors include her husband Bruce and their daughter Leah.

Later, Sundheim’s daughter Leah spoke up, saying she “can’t understand” that her mother won’t be there “when I have my baby or meet the love of my life, and that fills me with a rage and an emptiness that frightens me”.

Addressing the bereaved, she said: ‘I want each of you to take this fear and this sadness and this rage and I need it to let it fuel you. …. Let it remind you to find joy in the little things and cherish the big things. I want you to take this horrible, overwhelming hurt and turn it into motivation to help heal our world and our community.

“Don’t let this sadness, this fear, this rage make you indifferent or bitter towards our world, because the world is darker without my mother – and it’s up to us now to fill it with a little extra laughter and ‘help replace his light and love.’

Just as that service ended, another began for Straus at a synagogue a few miles south of Evanston. It followed a private funeral, where the opening theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” was played as his coffin was lowered into the ground.

“We are here this morning with brokenness. We stand here this morning in shock, disbelief, despair and grief,” Rabbi Rachel Weiss said at the start of the service at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. “We are here in painful disbelief that this is the world we live in.”

Straus’ family had earlier described him as a culture lover – from the Art Institute of Chicago to the comedy sketch “The 2000 Year Old Man” – with an inquisitive mind who still visited his office five days a week. downtown brokerage.

“It wasn’t how we thought Steve would or ever should be on the cover of The New York Times. It would be more like Steve being in the book review section because he’s read them all” , said Weiss at the funeral. “But now he joins a very difficult group, like all of us, who have been touched by death by trauma, terror and hatred.

“We tell his story. Steve was a good guy. We will never be the same again, but we will carry it with us,” she continued.

Hailing from Chicago’s South End, Straus was “very much a Highland Parker” and went to the parade every year, one of his sons told the Tribune.

Straus, said his son Peter Straus, was “curious about the world”.

Straus’ survivors include his wife Linda and another son, Jonathan. Straus’ brother, Larry Straus, spoke at the service, saying his brother’s greatest quality was loyalty.

He shared how he and his brother went to different high schools and their respective basketball teams ended up playing each other.

“When I was scoring a basket, my brother was yelling, ‘Atta boy, Larry! …I never forgot. It’s been with me all my life, that loyalty,” he said.

Jonathan Straus also spoke at the service, saying: “Just to think what a good, generous and loving person he was, it makes the cruelty and horror of his death all the more difficult to bear. And I’ve been pretty good at staying the course the last few days, but when I see pictures of him, it’s like he’s right there. Then it really overwhelms me, what we’ve lost, who I lost, my best friend.

Amidst the grief, there were also moments of levity.

Peter Straus concluded his remarks by saying that he “would like to share with you a secret about my father which was reminded to me by an old friend who offered his condolences recently. My dad, who worked in the Loop for (at least) six decades… made a point of pressing his nose—the side of his nose—against the glass of every revolving door he encountered, leaving an ugly nasal signature. What today’s children might call the marking that marked once again and forever that Steve Straus was there.

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Steve’s granddaughter, Maisy, sang the Bee Gees’ “Run to Me” as her father, Peter, accompanied her on guitar.

Steve’s grandson, Toby, read “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae, which Toby found in a book of World War I poems in his grandfather’s office.

“My grandfather was a very sweet, peaceful guy,” Toby said, “but he was really killed in a war.”

On Friday evening, under watery clouds, the large Toledo-Zaragoza family and other mourners gathered at the Iglesia Evangelica Bautista Emanuel Church in Waukegan for the visit of Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza.

The parking lot was packed with cars of visitors, some of whom had tears in their eyes before entering. Friends, family and worshipers of all ages gathered inside to mourn and share the memories of a man who was a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. too.

The Toledo-Zaragoza family said he planned to spend three months with visiting family from Chicago, which was delayed due to COVID-19. During the parade, he was surrounded by relatives when the shooting began.

“Today Nicolas is our guardian angel,” his granddaughter Xochil Toledo wrote about him. “We ask that you please keep our family and all families of this horrific tragedy in your prayers and stay strong as a community.”

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