Meadville says tearful goodbye to family

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

MEADVILLE &045; An outpouring of cards and flowers, the love-filled remarks and the presence of more than 600 people who came to say tearful goodbyes said it all.

This community feels the loss of Gloria Brown and her two daughters with all its heart.

Authorities believe Brown’s husband, Ronnie Brown, shot his wife and her two daughters, Albree’l &uot;Abby&uot; West and Shenill &uot;Nell&uot; West, June 1 at their home just outside Meadville, before fatally shooting himself.

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&uot;Nothing can prepare our hearts for the last goodbye,&uot; said one of many sympathy cards. Another added, &uot;I lost my best friend. Š May God bring us through this together.&uot;

&uot;She’s in heaven with her two angels by her side,&uot; Tinesha Charles said of Brown and her daughters during a Monday funeral service held in the auditorium of Franklin High School. &uot;The love you showed everyone will not be forgotten.

Charles remembered how, as a newborn, Abby West weighed just three pounds but was a fighter nonetheless. &uot;To our fighter, you cannot fight any more,&uot; she said.

She recalled how outgoing Nell was, and how much she liked to dance. &uot;Nell, we will miss your big, bright eyes,&uot; she said.

And while family, friends and the community at large mourn, Franklin Junior High and High School mourn with them.

Those who knew Abby and Nell West &045; 15 and 11 years old, respectively &045; fondly remember time spent with them, said junior high Principal Marshall Bankston.

Bankston remembered Nell West as someone who loved her family and close circle of friends intensely, a girl who could take care of herself but was respectful. Her writing in school &uot;showed a wisdom behind her years,&uot; he said.

Abby West, he said, was a solid student who didn’t miss a single day of school all last year. But most of all, Bankston said he would miss her likable personality.

&uot;She always had a smile on her face,&uot; he said. &uot;I enjoyed seeing her. It always made my day a little bit better.&uot;

In his eulogy, the Rev. Luther Bonds noted that Abby and Nell West both joined New Jerusalem Baptist Church three years ago and were both baptized, a prospect they greeted with enthusiasm.

&uot;They were thrilled,&uot; Bonds said. &uot;I believe that they made Jesus their choice.&uot;

Both sisters attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes events at the junior high, where they heard a clear, strong Gospel message, Bankston said.

&uot;If they could tell us one thing they learned while on earth, it would be how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,&uot; he said.

God will carry those who mourn, Bonds said. &uot;Can’t nobody do it like He does it,&uot; he said. &uot;He is closer to you than the clothes on your backs. ŠHe can reach way down and pick you way up.&uot;

Family and friends will see Gloria Brown and her two girls again, he said. Meanwhile, Bankston said, the best thing one can do is to simply remember.

&uot;As we leave here today,&uot; he said, &uot;the challenge to us is to not remember how these girls died, Š but how they lived.&uot;