Jenele Presley had a seizure while driving after she was diagnosed with sepsis, and she crashed into a tree. It would take a year before she was back to full health.
So she was especially thankful for her oldest child, Amauri Hughes. Only 13 at the time, Hughes took on the household responsibilities, making sure her siblings were taken care of.
“No matter what, my daughter was always there,” says Presley. “She stepped up and did everything she could to help. She talked to me, she let me cry to her and she listened to everything I was going through and was literally my best friend.”
That’s the sort of memory Presley wants to emphasize, instead of focusing on the way her daughter died at age 17.
Hughes, a senior at Grandview High School, was found dead Nov. 12 after she was reported missing the previous day. Police have charged her boyfriend, Tyheem Anderson, 19, with first-degree assault, armed criminal action and second-degree kidnapping.
“I wanted to make sure people saw the spirit of Amauri and we wanted to elevate who she was and not how she left,” says Presley, a mother of three.
“We are holding up moment by moment. She introduced me to being a mother and she gave me purpose for living.”
Hughes was involved with cheerleading and volleyball and planned to attend Florida A&M University with dreams of becoming a flight attendant. Among her daughter’s hobbies, Presley says, singing made her happiest.
“She has been singing since she was 4 years old, and I will miss her beautiful voice,” she says.
At the funeral Nov. 25, Grammy-nominated musician Joseph Macklin sang, and Mayor Quinton Lucas spoke, expressing his sadness over the killing and his hopes that the community can band together and look out for one another.
Many friends and classmates shared messages of shock and grief online.
“May this baby’s light shine bright. … My heart breaks for Jay Presley and Maurice Hughes and their families,”(referring to Hughes’ parents).
“It’s never your child until it is! If this were my child, I would pray that people would rally around me and help me get justice for her.”
“We are still in pure disbelief and sorrow at the loss of my niece Amauri. Babygirl you were a joy and light in our lives, your smile and energy will live on in our hearts forever.”
Presley isn’t sure how her daughter managed to touch the lives of so many in such a short time.
“I think the people who knew her will remember her with nothing but joy,” says Presley. “Nobody could know or suspect she was going through everything she was, but she gave everyone hope that everything would always work out.”
She is survived by her parents, Jenele Presley and Maurice Hughes; siblings, Brione Hughes and Michael Hughes; and many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
Mary Jones, mother and hospice worker, died Nov. 20. She was 77.
Jones was born Jan. 29, 1946, to Wilson and Alice Smith in Humphrey, Arkansas. In her teenage years, she and her family moved to Kansas City and she graduated from Central High School. In 1964, Jones married Lance Jones, and the couple had three children.
She worked for Swope Ridge Geriatric Center, providing hospice care to elderly patients, and worked part time cleaning houses until her retirement in 2005.
Jones will be remembered for her loving and down-to-earth personality and her generosity to those who knew her. In her free time, she enjoyed cooking for members of the community and providing meals to those in need. She was known for dedicating her time to listening to the problems of others and offering sage advice in their times of need.
She is survived by her children, Carla, April and Lance Jones; siblings, Lessie Howard, Ruby Smith, Faye Whitcomb and Calvin Smith; as well as nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
Charles Williams, retired Air Force veteran and father, died Oct. 25. He was 80.
Williams was born on July 18, 1943, to Charles and Katherine Williams in Ripley, Tennessee. He was the second born of the couple’s four children. After graduating high school, Williams earned an associate’s degree in pharmacy technology, a bachelor’s in social psychology and a master’s in human relations at St. Louis University.
In 1963, Williams married his high school girlfriend, Jean Reed, and the couple had two daughters.
He enlisted in the United States Air Force and served in the Vietnam War, later receiving honors such as the Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, Airman of the Month and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Month. Williams served for 22 years until his retirement in 1986 at the rank of chief master sergeant.
After leaving the Air Force, Williams worked in technical and management positions with the Missouri Department of Social Services, Kansas City Public Schools and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services until his retirement in 2005.
He is survived by his children, Cynthia Garner and Cecelia Nugent; brother, Montell Williams; and grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.