A close family is remembered

Some 600 attend Joppa funeral of couple, three grandchildren who died in Abingdon fire

January 28, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,sun reporter

The images appeared one after another on several large screens - smiling children playing with toys or mugging for the camera, along with older snapshots of their grandparents presiding over holiday family meals.

There were photos of preschoolers Donald White and his brother Derrick lifting weights, and infant Jhaniya Davis being cradled by her older sister. There was a photo of the grandparents sharing cake on their wedding day.

The slideshow presentation played yesterday as mourners filed into Mountain Christian Church in Joppa for the funeral service for the five family members who died in a Jan. 18 house fire in Abingdon.

"When life blindsides you with tragedy, you can move on with God's help," Bishop Kenneth M. Johnson said in a eulogy to about 600 people who attended. "If you do what is right, heaven is yours.

"We know these people made it in."

Remembered yesterday were Jerome Shropshire Sr., 72, his wife, Annette, 47, and three of their grandchildren, Donald, 4, and Derrick, 3, and 9-month-old Jhaniya. The grandparents were baby-sitting the children on the morning of the fire, which many were calling the deadliest in Harford County history.

Five caskets filled the front of the church, separating the congregation from a sanctuary where several dozen ministers sat. Flowers and a favorite toy topped each of the small white caskets of the children.

Before the service, hundreds moved slowly past the caskets, some gently touching the photos that sat atop each. They paused to console the children's mother, Shaunette Shropshire, and her 7-year-old daughter Iyanna. Shaunette was out on an errand and Iyanna was in school when fire broke out at the Philadelphia Road home.

The two-hour "Service of Triumph" ended like it began - with a song of hope. Many were on their feet clapping to "Going Up Yonder," the opening hymn.

Poems written for the service by family members remembered the dimple-faced Donald, the quiet Derrick - nicknamed D-Rock - and the baby who arrived on Easter Sunday. They recalled Jerome Shropshire as a father who worked hard his whole life to provide for his 10 children and Annette Shropshire as a devoted mother who loved to cook for her ever-growing family. They are survived by 77 grandchildren.

Jerome Shropshire Jr. said he had to go "off script" before he read notes from his father's obituary. The elder Shropshire was pulled from the first floor of the burning home but was pronounced dead later at a local hospital.

"He died trying to save his children," Jerome Shropshire Jr. said of his father, as the congregation erupted in applause.

Shaunette Shropshire wrote her children's obituary, which was read during the service by Assistant Pastor Mary Hall.

"The children enjoyed being with one another," she read. "They departed this life together with their grandparents. God bless them."

Johnson, of Evangelistic Church of Deliverance in Havre de Grace, gave a eulogy that stressed hope and renewal and thanked all those who supported the family.

"Even on this day, the Lord is good," said the Rev. Marvin Johnson, a nephew of Jerome Shropshire Sr. and godfather of Donald White. "I know on this day what it means to stand in a storm, and I understand the meaning of the word devastation. But be encouraged and help one another."

As dozens of pallbearers carried the caskets down the center aisle, a soloist gently sang "I'll Fly Away."

mhare@baltsun.com

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