Town turns out for Kelli's funeral: Purple balloons and white roses

Tribune reporters

An overflow crowd, some wearing tiny white ribbons, gathered at St. John of the Cross Parish Church in Western Springs this morning as 14-year-old Kelli O'Laughlin was laid to rest.

"There are no words to make sense of the absurd," the Rev. David P. Dowdle told the gathering, which included ministers from several denominations in the community.

Dowdle said the cross is a reminder that the innocent are not spared from tragedy and that love can overcome suffering.

Kelli's older brother Daniel Douglas told of Kelli's "contagious" joy, her appreciation for Disneyworld and her love for others. He said he was certain Kelli misses and loves all of them, and  urged those in attendance to continue her legacy by loving each other.

Outside, hundreds of friends lined the streets along the funeral procession route, which wound from the Hallowell and James funeral home in Countryside to St. John of the Cross Parish. They released white and purple balloons, some laid white roses in the street.

Claire Bach and Jen Delici, both LaGrange residents and mothers of students at Kelli's high school, Lyons Township, said they wanted to stand behind the family.

“As a mom, more than anything, I want to show support,” Bach said. “This is an extremely hard time for everyone. Especially the kids – it’s been a tough week. They’re still in shock.”

Delici said there’s a feeling of awareness among the LTHS community, with the teachers and administrators keenly aware of how the students are coping.

“They haven’t had much homework this week – the teachers are so clued in to making sure they’re not putting extra on these kids’ plates,” Delici said. “There’s such a sensitivity in this community.”

Steve Kehr said he’s been a resident of Countryside for more than 33 years and put all three of his children through LTHS. Kelli’s murder hit close to home, he said, so he wanted to join hands with his neighbors for her procession.

“This area has always been a wooded, secure place and a great place to live,” Kehr said. “You never think something like that would happen here. All I can do is show my support for this community in this tragic time.”

On the back of Kelli’s funeral program, the O’Laughlin family wrote a message thanking the community for the outpouring of support they’ve received in the last week.

“(Kelli) will be remembered for, among many things, her sparkling eyes, delightful energy, the way she lit up a room, and passion for her friends and the sport of tennis,” the message on the program read. “The family is so grateful to everyone who has offered their support and condolences in this difficult time.”

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