Though the sky was a gloomy gray, yellow was the color of the night as 200 members of the Galesburg community gathered for a vigil service in honor of Jenni McGruder. The service was held on April 4th at 7 p.m. behind the Seminary Street Pub.
“That’s where it happened, so there is kind of a lot emotions . . . It’s going to be a tough couple of days, that’s for sure,” McGruder’s longtime friend Kaitlin Straub said.
According to a statement released by the Galesburg Police Department, McGruder had been shot by a stray bullet outside of the Seminary Street Pub just after midnight on Easter Day.
McGruder is survived by her two young children and her husband, Michael McGruder. Family and friends of McGruder have started a GoFundMe page in order to support the family she left behind.
On the morning of the vigil, Straub could not find a yellow item to honor McGruder with. Participants of the vigil were asked to adorn yellow in order to celebrate the ‘bright’ and ‘sunny’ personality of Mcgruder.
“I was in Target and I could not find yellow anywhere and I panicked. Somehow I meandered off to the sporting goods section. That’s something me and Jenni had in common, we were like the people of Target that people make those memes about, like you walk in for one thing and leave with 52,” Straub said.
While in the sporting section, Staub turned around to find a bright yellow scarf waiting for her on the rack. Straub feels like this was a sign from her friend.
“And that was Jenni saying ‘somehow you’ve meandered off somewhere you’re not supposed to be at Target and I’m going to show you what you came for,’ I just believe that she’ll give all of us signs that she’s with us.”
Straub had met McGruder while she was in high school and the pair instantly glued together. Straub describes her as the type of person who saw the positive in everyone and could make anybody laugh. One of her fondest memories of McGruder was when all of the girls in their friend group were spending time together at McGruder’s house.
“We were at Jenni’s house and her daughter comes running in with Jenni’s bra on her head. It was the most hysterical thing and Jenni just cracked up. Her laugh was infectious. I have so many great memories and they’re all of her laughing. [They’re all] of her being so happy and cheerful,” Straub said.
On the more serious side of things, McGruder was said to be someone who everyone could turn to for advice and help. When Straub’s own son was sick, she would call McGruder for advice whenever she got the chance. The pair would constantly text and FaceTime each other. In fact, just six minutes before McGruder’s untimely death, Straub got the last text message she would ever receive from her.
“You don’t meet very many put together, well-rounded, genuine people in this world. The few that you meet are great and she was great,” Straub said.
Before the vigil, Straub met with another one of McGruder’s friends, who was also wearing yellow. Staub shared that McGruder was like the brightness in her friends’ lives.
“When you see the sun and you see that bright shining light that’s Jenni. [McGruder’s daughter] told me, ‘my mom is on the moon.’ When I think of the moon I think of the brightest thing in the night sky. She’s was the brightest thing in all of our lives,” Straub said.