There were no dignitaries or elected officials at Cornelius “Cornbread” German’s funeral.
No activists, no high-profile clergy.
Instead, dozens of teenagers dressed more for a picnic than a somber occasion crowded the pews inside Roberts Temple Church of God for the 15-year-old's funeral Tuesday. Outside the South Side church, undercover Chicago police officers were parked in unmarked vehicles, watching.
German was shot to death last week just four blocks from President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home. The shooting echoed the high-profile murder of Hadiya Pendleton, an honors student who was also 15, and was shot less than a mile from the Obama home.
German’s death has not drawn the same public outcry. The teenager was skipping out on community service and hanging out with alleged gang members at a dice game when he died. His parents acknowledged he was often in trouble, had been kicked out of Chicago Public Schools and had even been arrested.
No was has been taken into custody for the slaying.
At German's funeral, the boy was remembered for cracking jokes and keeping his friends and family laughing.
As the service started, several teenagers wiped away tears and held each other. But the mood shifted when Pastor Chris Harris asked the mourners to whisper to each other their favorite memory of German. Laughter filled the sanctuary.
The boy’s mother, Timika Rutledge-German, said she was grateful so many of her son’s peers chose to come mourn his death.
She read a poem that she said expressed her feelings about her youngest son. “My little one, my baby who I loved so dear,” she said. “Your body may be gone, but memories of you still stay.”
German grew up around on the South Side and lived for several years blocks from Obama. Even when his family moved farther west, to the Back of the Yards, he returned to the old neighborhood to see his friends.
After being kicked out of public schools, the teen attended Richard Milburn Alternative School. Earlier this year, he started studying at Kenwood Academy High School, a move his parents hoped signaled a turnaround for him.
He was well known at Milburn, according to a counselor from the school, who spoke at the service. “Had a big heart and was loved by everyone,” she said. “When a child's life is taken... it’s still someone's child. He remembered his mama in the end.”
The woman encouraged German’s friends to put their education first. “If you love Cornelius like you say you do, I encourage you to stay in school and graduate school,” she said.
Gregory Jones, the principal of Kenwood Academy High School, presented German’s family with a framed copy of the boy’s last hand-written essay. Then he gave them a copy of a resolution the school adopted.
"We embrace the family because we have a common bond that shapes all of our lives," he said.