Family, Community Mourn Death of 11-Year-Old

Post a Comment » Written on December 7th, 2009     
Filed under: News
PAXTON, IL (December 7, 2009) – This small community showed its support over the weekend for a Covenant family whose 11-year-old daughter and sister, Natalie Johnson, died of a still-undetermined illness that took her life suddenly last week.

Approximately 250 people attended the funeral service Saturday at Paxton Covenant Church, which has an average attendance of 65, says Pastor Craig Pinley. More than 500 people lined up outside the local funeral home for the visitation on Friday.

Natalie became ill the previous weekend and her parents, Mike and Stephanie Johnson, took her to the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana on Tuesday. She died later that day.

Medical officials are awaiting an autopsy report from the Champaign County Coroner’s Office to determine if there is a community health concern. A spokesperson for the office said results would not be available until at least today.

Grief counseling is being provided to students and staff at Paxton-Buckley-Loda Junior High School.

Pinley told the gathering at Natalie’s funeral that even as doctors try to determine the physical cause of death, the larger theological questions remain elusive. “I’m not sure why this happened,” he said. “I’m not sure what we’ll gain from this yet … I want so badly to be able to tell you that you’ll stop missing her soon and that she’ll just re-appear one day in class or on the football field with her cheerleading outfit on, and it’ll be like nothing ever happened. I can’t.”

The pastor added that he is “still trying to wrap my mind around the reality that Natalie won’t be walking the halls at school or helping my daughter Ellie at our kids club anymore.”

Pinley described Natalie as “pound for pound, one of the best pastors in town, though she probably would never have wanted to be a pastor.”

In addition to her parents, Natalie is survived by two sisters, Heather, 19, and Mallory, whose sixth birthday was the same day as the funeral.

A memorial fund has been set up at Busey Bank in Paxton to help the family pay for funeral expenses. Donations may be made in her name in care of Busey Bank, 140 W. Center St., Paxton, IL, 60957.

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