The conference room at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was filled with emotion on Thursday as students, faculty, family members and police officers took part in a remembrance ceremony to honor Taylor Clark.
Clark was killed in May in St. Louis while trying to sell his car on Craiglist.
Longtime friend, Summer Tracy, said she volunteered to speak because she “had unfinished things to say.” She remembered how they changed outfits on Halloween so they could go for a second trip out.
“Today I wish I would have spent just one more minute with him,” Tracy told the crowd, wiping tears from her eyes. “Just one more second goofing off with that silly gap-tooth grin. I love you Taylor and I can’t wait to see you again.”
Taylor’s parents sat composed in the front row. Clark’s family members were easily spotted, wearing matching T-shirts with a photo of Taylor standing next to his car under the words ‘Forever in our hearts.’
The Rev. Patrick Jakel welcomed and thanked everyone for coming. “We believe that all our ties with friendship and family do not unravel with death,” Jakel said to the crowd.
He turned the microphone over to a poem-reading from the SIUE Student Body president, followed by words of remembrance from his high school classmates.
Two of Taylor’s friends — Andrew Parker and Christien Elliot — spoke about their first time meeting Taylor, their constant trips to the restaurant Subway and growing up with a second “second family” — Rob and Kelly Clark.
“His family will always be my family,” Parker said almost directly to his parents. “I love Rob and Kelly with all my heart.”
Jakel invited attendees to use the piece of paper in the handout to write a prayer or kind message to the family, while a cover of “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa played over the stereo. Taylor Clark’s father sang along silently as he tried to stay poised.
The family received long hugs and rare moments of laughter at the end of the memorial service as people approached them — offering both their condolences and warm memories of Taylor.
His parents were overwhelmed with the turnout, and said they “just want to express our thanks to the university” for holding the event.
Police say Taylor was trying to sell his car on Craigslist in early May when he met in Missouri with Michael Gordon, 24, of St. Louis for a test drive. Police say Gordon shot Taylor in the head and drove the car back to work, leaving Taylor in a shallow grave of dirt and leaves.
Gordon remained jailed as of Thursday in St. Louis County in lieu of $1 million bond as he awaits trial.