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Victims remembered through tears of friends, family
By Sheri Vazzano and Willie Medina | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 10:04 PM

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Originally published Jan. 13, 1993

Friends and family members say that Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt were a loving, generous couple whose lives centered on making the world a better place.

The more than 700 people who turned out for a memorial service in honor of the two at the Kingswood Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove confirmed it.

Meanwhile, hundreds of mourners - most silent, some sobbing - maintained a steady flow into and out of a Palatine funeral home Tuesday where they gathered to remember Michael Castro and Rico Solis.

Relatives, friends, schoolmates, teachers and co-workers struggled to console each other at the daylong, combined wake for the two youths who were among the seven victims of the massacre at Brown's Chicken & Pasta.

Annie Bauer, a junior at Palatine High School, was among a group of students who left the funeral home in tears as they tried to comfort one another.

She said the most disturbing aspect of the tragedy is the way in which Castro and Solis died.

"I guess it's the fact that it was murder," said Bauer who shared a class with Castro. "Life was taken away so quickly and violently. It makes you think about your own life."

She said students were also finding it difficult to deal with the senselessness of the loss.

"You always hear about students who die because of something like drinking and driving," she said. "These guys didn't do anything. They were just trying to work and look what happened to them."

A display table next to Castro's open casket featured the stub from the first paycheck he earned at the restaurant, as well as the first dollar bill from that check. Leaning against the table was red metal sign that read, "I love my truck."

In Buffalo Grove, William Babcock told the crowd that his cousin Richard Ehlenfeldt was an enthusiastic person who worked to improve and expand everything he did. He described Lynn as a pillar of strength who supported her husband in every endeavor including working at Brown's Chicken & Pasta.

He said the couple were devoted to each other, family and humanity. "A lot of people talk about social problems and complain about them," Babcock said. "Dick and Lynn did something about them."

They were givers and helpers, not just when it was easy or convenient, but they helped when help was needed, even when it interrupted their lives."

The couple left a trail of friends everywhere they went. Their wide collection of friends was evidenced at the services as mourners of many ages and colors came to pay tribute. Church member Leah Nakamura spoke of the commitment the two had in helping others. She talked of their works with the homeless as they helped to establish a PADS site at the church. Nakamura also said Lynn was responsible for developing an Outreach Committee, worked with the church youth camp in the summer and helped with the Meals on Wheels program.

She called upon the congregation to now return that support to the couple's three daughters and the families of the employees who were killed in the tragedy, as well as the other employees of the restaurant.

Visitation and funeral services for 31-year-old Marcus Nellsen, killed at Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in Palatine, will be held today at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.

Nellsen, who looked forward to management training with Brown's, was among the seven people found dead at the Palatine restaurant Saturday. Friends and family members gathered to mourn the death Tuesday at the Montclair Lucania Funeral Home in Chicago for a wake service and private viewing of Nellsen's body.

Friends and relatives will be paying their last respects today from 11 a.m. to noon at Willow Creek, where Nellsen's body will lie in state. A memorial service starts at noon. Burial will follow at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Arlington Heights.

Meanwhile, inside the Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral Home, mourners shared stories about the boys. Other whisper-level conversations centered on the anger and frustration over Castro's father's contention that police dragged their heels in responding to his phone calls last Friday night when his son didn't come home from the restaurant.

Adriano Urgena, Solis' stepfather, echoed Emmanuel Castro's concerns. "I am disappointed with the way they responded to the initial calls they received," he said. "I'm not happy with the way they handled that. I'm also really frustrated and angry that they haven't caught the people responsible for this atrocity."

Urgena described his stepson as a "nice, quiet boy" who enjoyed spending time with his two sisters. He said the three siblings would play Nintendo video games for hours together. He said the boy was working to save money for a new car.

Although Guadalupe Maldonado died miles from his native Mexico, a funeral service Tuesday in a small Palatine church made it seem like he wasn't far from home as more than 150 friends and family members came to pay their last respects.

While everyone at Santa Teresita Church, 35 W. Wood St., struggled to understand why the victims met such an ugly fate, Father Raphael Orozco wanted the congregation to remember that love would ultimately conquer evil.

But for Lupe Maldonado's wife, Beatrix, and their three children, Juan Pablo, 13; Javier, 10; and Salvador, 5, those words were hard to take. Throughout the ceremony, the family let out muffled cries that echoed throughout the church.

"Tonight is a night of love," Orozco said. "That's why we are here. A horrible thing happened. Several lives were taken, for what reason we don't know. But Mrs. Maldonado, your husband didn't die. Yes, his body is gone, but his soul is going to heaven."

The ceremony, in typical Latin fashion, involved the saying of several rosaries and the reading of Scriptures dealing with the life of Jesus Christ. When the Lord's Prayer was recited, the congregation held hands.

At the end of the service, the congregation walked toward the open coffin where Guadalupe Maldonado lay and touched it. Some said a silent prayer, others left a donation.

The church cleared in order to give the family a last chance to say goodbye.

The body of Guadalupe Maldonado and his family will leave today for Mexico, where he will be buried, said Sister Rosita Maria. U.S. Rep. Philip Crane and U.S. Sen. Paul Simon have offered to financially assist the family with that expense.

Additionally, students at Central Road Elementary School and Walter R. Sundling Junior High School, both in Palatine, are also collecting donations to help the Maldonado family with their trip.