Friends and loved ones pay their respects in a Chicago memorial

By Lesley Messer and Nikitta Foston
Updated November 02, 2008 10:35 PM
Credit: John Spellman/Retna

On Sunday night, friends and family paid their respects to Jennifer Hudson‘s slain mother, Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson and nephew Julian Hudson in a public memorial service at the Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church near their Chicago home.

Flanked by three of her students, Carmen Williams, Julian’s second grade teacher, spoke poignantly about the bubbly 7-year-old, and read a few comments from students’ journals.

“I’m sad he didn’t get to be President,” one child lamented, while others remembered a generous and funny boy who loved to tell knock-knock jokes and play Power Rangers.

“Julian was a role model, an academic whiz and a best friend,” Williams added. “You could look into his eyes and you knew he always had the right answer.”

Shari Sweat, a cousin, focused on Darnell, remembering a woman who was proud of her academic background and loved the song, “From Out of Nowhere, Jesus Found Me.”

“She was gentle, special and loving,” Sweat said.

Another relative, Rev. Quentin Washington, recalled Jason as a caring, churchgoing man who encouraged him to pursue his career as a minister.

“They are all in Heaven having a ‘hallelujah good time,’ ” he said. “Their lives were not in vain. Their legacies live on.”

Police discovered the bodies of Hudson’s mother, 57, and brother, 29, on Oct. 24, and her nephew’s three days later. Though no one has been charged, police have classified Jennifer’s brother-in-law, William Balfour, as “a person of interest.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer and her sister, Julian’s mother Julia Hudson, have established the Hudson King Foundation for Families of Slain Victims in honor of their loved ones.

“The specific purpose of the Foundation is to care for the needs of families who have lost relatives to a violent crime,” according to Jennifer’s MySpace page.”Thank you for your continued support.”