Memorial services for victims of Cicero fire

February 20, 2010 8:42:51 PM PST
Mourners said goodbye Saturday as six of the seven victims of a deadly fire in Cicero were laid to rest.Two mothers who lost a son and a daughter and grandchildren embraced Saturday. Theirs is an unfathomable pain, but as both would say, Saturday's services were meant to be celebrations of life.

"Byron stood at 6'4" and was known to all who loved him as being a gentle giant," one person said during the victim's service.

A memorial service took place in Chicago Saturday for Byron Reed, the young father who was working to become a carpenter. His family praised him as mild-mannered, dependable.

For some, looking at pictures of Byron and his family was very hard.

But the service was also for Byron Reed's girlfriend, Sallie Gist, and their two young sons 3-year-old Rashon, and 3-day-old Bryon, all of whom perished in the inferno six days ago.

"Of course, my heart is heavy. I would be less than human if my heart was not heavy, but it's my faith in God that is going to take me through," said Shilla Newton, Byron Reed's mother.

" My kids touched everybody, and I'm just happy that everybody came out to celebrate their homegoing," said Allison Gist, Sallie Gist's mother.

Those attending Saturday's service offered love and support for the family in mourning.

Reed's service was the second of two memorial services Saturday for the seven victims of Sunday's fire.

A large crowd gathered earlier in the day in suburban LaGrange to pay tribute to the others lost, including twins Elijah and Elicia Gist. Some spoke of Elijah Gist's love of basketball and music and Elicia's artistic, fun-loving spirit.

"Elisha was always so silly and goofy, and we could always just smile and have fun," said Monia Williams, Elicia Gist's friend.

Family friend Tierra Davidson also lost her life in the fire.

The victims of the fire have large family circles, many friends, and the depth of this tragedy has brought them support from many they don't know.

That and their faith has helped them move forward.

"We're thankful for the strength for each other, the comfort we have been for each other, and we know by God's grace, we're gonna get through this," said Fonda Moyer, Byron Reed's aunt.

Harris Bank has set up a memorial fund for the Gist family, which lost all its possessions in the fire. Account number 7802643236 is under the name, The Gist Foundation.

The deadly fire was fast-moving and trapped five of the victims in a finished attic bedroom. The blaze reduced a rear porch to ashes, and while that doesn't preclude investigators from ultimately determining a cause, they do concede that it will be difficult.