A private funeral service for the slain mother, brother and nephew of Jennifer Hudson drew hundreds of mourners Monday at Apostolic Church of God on Chicago’s South Side.
Near the end of a two-hour wake before the service, Hudson approached their coffins and spent a few moments saying goodbye to each family member.
The Chicago Tribune reports: “She paused at the casket of her 7-year-old nephew Julian [King], then moved on, gently touching the body of her mother. Composed, the 27-year-old actress and singer leaned down to kiss her mother goodbye. She paused again before her brother’s casket before taking her seat.”
As hundreds of onlookers gathered outside, the 200 or so invited guests were given a small blue ticket that read “Hudson Family Funeral” to gain admittance to the three-hour service. Police shut down side streets around the church to keep the media away and give celebrity mourners a private entrance.
The service included several hours of eulogies and scriptures and was filled with gospel music and fond memories. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley were among the speakers.
“American Idol” Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino belted the gospel classic, “Your Grace and Mercy,” the Tribune reports. Calling the Hudsons “my family,” she walked off the stage and into the aisle where she took Jennifer’s hand and sang directly to the actress.
After the funeral, the funeral procession was led to Oak Woods Cemetery on the South Side by a horse-drawn carriage.
Monday’s services followed a public memorial held Sunday at Pleasant Gift Memorial Baptist Church, Hudson’s childhood place of worship.
Julian’s classmates read from their personal journals, reminiscing about the smart boy who liked to tell knock-knock jokes, according to Carmen Williams of Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy. Other students said he shared his school supplies generously and loved Spider-Man. Another student lamented that King didn’t live long enough to become president.
Jennifer and her sister Julia, King’s mother, did not attend the public memorial.
Shari Sweat, a cousin of Jennifer’s 57-year-old mother, Darnell Hudson Donerson, called Donerson by her nickname, “Doll,” as she recounted how important the upcoming election was to her.
“Doll refused to be left out of this historical moment in this nation, and before she left these shores she cast her vote,” Sweat said.
Sean Howard, executive assistant to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, said he was with the Hudson family when they went to the medical examiner’s office last week to identify Julian’s body.
“When Jennifer and her family walked in, Jennifer was a pillar in that room,” Howard said. “You have a true leader in your family in Jennifer.”
Jason Hudson’s cousin, the Rev. Quentin Washington, reminded mourners that he would have turned 30 on Feb. 17. Washington said Hudson recently joked about getting older, saying “his Afro was getting thin.”
The bodies of Donerson and Jason Hudson, 29, were discovered Oct. 24 at the family’s home. Three days later the body of Julian was discovered in a sport utility vehicle on the city’s West Side. No one has been charged in the killings, which police have described as “domestic related.” Chicago police last week found the gun used in the three killings in a vacant lot.
Authorities have called Julia Hudson’s estranged husband, 27-year-old William Balfour, a “person of interest.” Police arrested him the same day the bodies of Donerson and Hudson were discovered. After 48 hours — the longest Chicago police can hold a person without charges — Balfour was taken by the Illinois Department of Corrections on a parole violation.
Meanwhile, New York Daily News columnists Rush & Malloy spoke with Hudson’s friend and fashion mentor Andre Leon Talley, who says Jennifer has not been able to go inside the home where the killings took place.
“I believe she went back just once, to the gate, but didn’t go inside,” Talley said. “Right now she’s at an undisclosed location.”
The column also says he and his Vogue boss, Anna Wintour, have been reaching out to Hudson as she mourns.
“We’ve talked constantly,” Talley said. “I’ve sent her many e-mails; I’ve sent her my support, and so has Anna Wintour. And she just says thank you, thank you, thank you. She wants everyone, all her fans, to know how much their support has meant to her. And she’s going to be all right. Jennifer has faith in God. They’re just praying, every day, every minute, for the strength to get through this. And she will – she’s a very strong girl.”
Talley said he would try to see Jennifer this week while he’s in Chicago working a phone bank for Barack Obama – the presidential candidate who was so important to Jennifer’s mother.
In an interview with Usmagazine.com, Talley said of Jennifer: “She is doing very, very well. She’s very strong. …There’s so much strength within her that she’s going to be OK. The message that she sent to me is that she appreciates all the messages of love that come from all the fans.”