On scorching August day, the wails of mourners saying goodbye to Kendall Brown were drowned out by several industrial fans blowing into Bethlehem Star Missionary Baptist Church.
Rev. Larry Kuykendoll had to yell to be heard above the din.
“Kendall didn’t know he would be gunned down that day!” Rev. Kuykendoll said. “No man knows when death is coming and no man knows how it will come. It is important you get right before death comes for you!”
Kendall Brown was one of the 12 people shot and killed last week in Chicago’s deadliest weekend this year. Family and friends crowded into the Chatham church Tuesday to pay their respects and say their farewells. Some wore blue t-shirts with Brown’s image on the front.
“My son had another side to him, and had changed his life over these last two years,” Brown’s mother Debra West said. “He was no angel or saint, but he was a great father who was trying to leave his past behind him.”
Brown’s 6-year-old son still hasn’t fully grasped his father has died and what that means but has noticed his father’s absence, West said.
Records show Brown had several run-ins with law enforcement; that record includes 17 arrests from August 2009 until April 2014. Then, in November 2014, he was arrested and charged with possessing a firearm while a felon and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He was sentenced to four years in prison and two years of supervised release.
“His problems started early in his life, but these last few years he was turning it around,” West said. “He was so proud of the job he had and excited at how well-paying the job was. I can’t stress enough about how much he was changing.”
Brown also wrote poetry; his sister read during the funeral proceedings at the church, 9231 S. Cottage Grove Ave. People also recounted what they will miss most, and how he used to make them smile so much.
Brown’s best friend, James McCain, spoke from the altar, his arms flailing as he paced.
“He was my every day. This is just hurting me. I should’ve never left him alone,” McCain said before his knees gave out and he nearly fell over. He was surrounded by mourners who helped him back to his seat.
Brown was laid to rest at Oak Woods Cemetery.
Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.