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Victim's family marks bittersweet birthday
By Kristy Bard | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:59 PM

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Originally published Feb. 7, 1993

It had all the trimmings of the perfect 18th birthday party Rico Solis had been eagerly awaiting one month ago.

There was a large tiered cake with white frosting, a Chinese buffet dinner, a crowd of about 50 family members and friends, rock music playing, a "Happy Birthday" sign and a balloon.

But one month after he was murdered while working at Brown's Chicken, Solis was present Saturday at what would have been his 18th birthday, only through several photos and in the hearts of many of those who attended.

"I told him I would have a big party for him before this all happened. It was going to be his first birthday in America," said Evelyn Urgena about her son, Solis, who left the Philippines nine months ago to live with his family in Arlington Heights.

"But I can still feel Rico here with me. He would be happy about the party," she said.

The celebration Saturday evening at the VIP Apartments in Wheeling followed a special mass at St. Edna Catholic Church in Arlington Heights. After a buffet dinner, "Happy Birthday" was quietly sung as Urgena cut the heart-shaped cake with "WE LOVE YOU RICO!" written in red icing.

Relatives of murder victim Thomas Mennes also attended, and agreed with Solis' family that the party provided them with an opportunity to celebrate the lives of the victims, as well as share their grief.

"It feels like he's with us and trying to get us to understand what's happening," said Diane Mennes, who is the wife of Thomas Mennes' twin brother, Jerry.