CHICAGO (AP) — Mourners on Friday remembered a woman who worked tirelessly planning events at her synagogue in the first formal service to be held for the seven people killed by the gunman who opened fire on a July Fourth parade.
Synagogue members at North Shore Congregation Israel near the Chicago suburb of Highland Park described 63-year-old Jacquelyn Sundheim as a dedicated member of their community who coordinated events and and taught preschool classes, smiling all along and constantly checking on other staff members.
“We are horrified,” Rabbi Wendi Geffen said. “We are enraged, sickened, aggrieved, inconsolable for the terror that has befallen us and robbed us of Jacki.”
But Geffen and other speakers urged the people filling the synagogue to focus on Sundheim’s life — her commitment to her husband, Bruce, and daughter, Leah, the pleasure she took in knitting and her attention to detail when planning bat or bar mitzahs, weddings or funerals.
Her daughter had another request: to use the pain, fear and rage caused by her mother’s death to make the world better, in small thoughts and actions.
“I want you to laugh,” she said, holding back tears. “I want you to each and every day put a little more joy and kindness into this world. Do not let this sadness, this fear, rage turn you bitter towards our world. The world is darker without my mom in it, and it’s up to us now to fill it with a little extra laughter.”
Friends and family of two beloved grandfathers planned to gather later Friday for services in memory of 88-year-old Stephen Straus and 78-year-old Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza. Services for 69-year-old Eduardo Uvaldo are scheduled for Saturday.
Funeral details for the remaining victims have not been made public. Authorities have identified them as 35-year-old Irina McCarthy and 37-year-old Kevin McCarthy, who were attending the parade with their 2-year-old son, and 64-year-old Katherine Goldstein, a mother of two.
The accused gunman, Robert E. Crimo III, has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors expect to bring more charges representing the more than 30 people were wounded in the assault.
Investigators have said the suspect, who lived in neighboring Highwood, legally purchased five weapons and planned the attack for weeks before he climbed to the roof of a business along the parade route and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle.
Investigators reported that Crimo fled the parade by blending in with the fleeing crowd, then drove to the Madison, Wisconsin, area, where he contemplated a second attack. He returned to the Highland Park area, and his car was spotted by police.
Questions remain about whether Crimo should have been able to legally purchase firearms in Illinois. Illinois State Police officials have defended the approval of his gun license in December 2019, months after police received reports that he had made suicidal and violent threats.