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‘Violence never far,’ state Sen. Mattie Hunter tells mourners at nephews’ funeral

The two brothers lived together, worked together and died together.

On Saturday, Willie Lee Hunter and his younger brother John Lee Hunter — nephews of state Sen. Mattie Hunter who were shot to death while visiting Chicago over the Fourth of July — were buried next to each other. 

These brothers were so entwined together that God made the decision that they may take the journey into eternity together,” the men’s family wrote in the program for their funeral, a standing-room-only ceremony that drew more than 500 people  to Gatling’s Chapel on the city’s South Side.

Willie Hunter, 31, and John Hunter, 25, were shot early July 5 as they sat in a sport-utility vehicle at 88th and Bishop in Auburn Gresham on the South Side. They lived in Missouri but were in town for the holiday weekend.

Mattie Hunter told the  crowd Saturday at the funeral home, “As I have so often stated, our family is not exempt from the violence we face in Chicago. And guess what? The real truth of the matter is that no matter who you are, what you do and how peacefully you try to live in this world, violence is seemingly never far away and always ready to prey. None of us are exempt. We are all in this terrible tragedy together.”

llinois state Sen. Mattie Hunter.  Sun-Times file photo

llinois state Sen. Mattie Hunter. Sun-Times file photo

She urged the mourners to “consciously commit” to changing their community and working to try to end the cycle of violence and despair.

The brothers lived in Jefferson City, Missouri. Both worked for Scholastic, the children’s publishing company, according to their family.

John Hunter had moved to Missouri in 2013 to live with his father, John Davis and find work, according ot the family. He worked in the packing department at Scholastic, they said.

Willie Hunter followed his brother in April, looking for a better life, the family said. Within a month of going to work for Scholastic, he was promoted to manager, in the operations department, according to a biography the family prepared.

A supervisor at Scholastic and several coworkers drove from Jefferson City to be at the funeral. Amanda Kunkelman was emotional as she told the mourners the brothers were good workers who treated colleagues well and always offered “warm smiles.”

The hours-long service was punctuated with wails and weeps from relatives.

One woman collapsed on viewing the open caskets, with the two brothers dressed in identical white shirts, and screamed, “I don’t want to leave them.”

But like the senator, the Rev. John McEwen urged the mourners to work for change. He said he planned to go back out to the scene of the shooting to “bless the block.”

Before the caskets were closed, John Hunter’s father — who considered Willie Hunter a son, too — leaned carefully into each white casket and kissed his boys good-bye.