100 mourn girl, 10, slain as she aided blind sister
It was the celebration of a “little woman” who woke up on Saturday mornings and took orders for homemade omelets, walked around in her mother’s heels with her hands on her hips and treated her blind sister, Valerie, as if she were her own daughter.
“ She helped me so much,” Nequiel Fowler’s mother, Linda Williams, said as she looked down at her 10-year- old daughter’s white casket. “She was my twin. She will be missed.”
About 100 mourners gathered at Smith and Thomas Funeral Home on the West Side on Friday for the funeral service for Nequiel, whom family members repeatedly described as a “little woman” in the days following her death.
Nequiel, known as “Nee-Nee,” was killed in a gang-related shooting as she guided 5-year- old Valerie around their South Chicago neighborhood. Four men from the neighborhood with alleged gang ties were charged in the shooting Thursday. When their mug shots were published Friday, Nequiel’s 8-year- old brother, Xavier, recognized them as “mean men” from the neighborhood, Linda Williams said.
The capture of the alleged shooters brought little comfort to mourners as they filed past the young girl’s casket. Some yelled out of sheer grief, others because they barely recognized Nee-Nee as she lay in a white, princesslike dress and earrings, with white beads and barrettes her mother had put in for her back-to-school hairdo.
Nee-Nee was known for saying to visiting friends and family: “Let me get a dollar.” So, as they passed her body Friday, some mourners put dollars into her hands.
And as her blind sister ran her hands along her coffin, then to the surrounding flower arrangements and finally up to Nee-Nee’s body, family members cried out.
“I’m still trying to grasp it in my mind, and it didn’t feel real until I saw her laying there,” said her cousin Nastassia Haley. “She don’t even look like herself, though — which makes it even harder to believe. But I’m glad they caught them.”
When a relative thanked the police, mourners applauded. Law enforcement officials attended the funeral, as did the principal of Arnold Mireles Academy, where Nequiel would have started fourth grade this week.
“This is the first child I have ever lost,” said Principal Rosalydia Diaz. “We opened our building to 1,200 students on Tuesday, but we opened that building — missing.”
A family member read a handwritten letter from Nequiel’s father, who is incarcerated, to honor those missing from her funeral.
“ I used to say, ‘ Nee- Nee, how much do you love me?’ ” the letter read. “She spread her little arms apart so far. Her arms will still be around her daddy.”
Linda Williams is held by her brother John Williams on Friday as they view the body of her slain daughter Nequiel Fowler (right). Four men with alleged gang ties have been charged in the girl’s murder.