Sharyl Mathews and her two daughters each had a favorite room in Pilcher Park’s Bird Haven Greenhouse.
For Sharyl, it was the room with the waterfall and the pond full of koi fish. Her younger daughter, Marci, is partial to the one with the gazebo and the bridges. Sharyl’s older daughter, Holly, preferred the room with all the cacti, which is why her mother plans to have a bench placed there in Holly’s memory some months after she was shot to death at a Halloween party. She was only 22.
“The succulent room was her favorite room. She loved succulents,” Sharyl said, telling how that love was born in the greenhouse and led her daughter to pursue a career as an arborist.
“That’s where she got her love for plants,” Sharyl said. “We’ve been best friends with everyone there since she was born.”
Sharyl said her daughter had a wide range of talents and engaged in many pastimes during her short life, from Girl Scouts to ballet and from horseback riding to painting, and that she worked as a certified nursing assistant at Alden Estates and as a lifeguard at Splash Station Waterpark before taking a job as an arborist at Arbor Tek Services in Joliet.
“She was working three jobs at one point,” Sharyl said. “She was a hard worker.”
Holly was also on the verge of major milestones when she lost her life. She was about to graduate from Joliet Junior College and she had a wedding coming up, her fiance proposing to her during a vacation to Moab, Utah, just two weeks before she died.
The proposal was a surprise, Sharyl said, and Holly was supposed to come over on Halloween to talk about the wedding.
The night before that, Holly went with friends to a Halloween party in Frankfort. When it ended, they headed to another party, this one on East Jackson Street near Joliet. The police said about 200 others had the same idea, and then someone started shooting.
Mathews was killed. So was Jonathan Ceballos, who was also 22. Nine others were hospitalized, some with injuries suffered when they fell or were trampled by fleeing partygoers, others with bullet wounds, including one man who was left paralyzed, police said.
On Wednesday, an 18-year-old, Joskar Ramos, and brothers Jeremy and Thomas Lopez, ages 19 and 21, were charged with murdering Mathews and Ceballos, as well as with wounding five others, three of whom were juveniles. Bond was set at $10 million for each of them and they’re all sitting in jail, likely for years before they plead guilty or go to trial.
“I’m so happy,” Sharyl said of the murder charges brought against the three men, but then conceded that, even though she was pleased to learn of the arrests, she and her family really weren’t that happy at all.
“She was our light, our everything,” Sharyl said of Holly.
“Even though they got these guys, it’s not going to bring her back,” she said. “There’s a hole in our hearts.”
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeHosey.