‘Allow love to take place’: Pastors plan memorial for Tristyn Bailey

Thousands expected to attend and watch service for 13-year-old girl from St. Johns County


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands are expected to show up Tuesday evening when the family of Tristyn Bailey holds a celebration of life for the 13-year-old who was killed last week in her St. Johns County neighborhood.

Loved ones told News4Jax on Monday that Bailey will be honored at Celebration Church on R.G. Skinner Parkway in Jacksonville. Guests are asked to wear her favorite colors, aqua and white, to the event, which is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

On Monday night, Bailey’s father, Forrest, told News4Jax that the event is about all the support and love the family has felt from the public. He said the aqua ribbons, the memorials and the fundraisers have shown the Bailey family that the community supports them. He said they want this celebration of life to be for the kids who knew Bailey, went to school with her and cheered with her.

Bailey’s mother, Stacey, said Tuesday’s memorial is about her daughter’s light. She called the past week a movement of positivity and love from people around the world -- people who have helped them feel so much good around them.

Anticipating a “full house,” church staff members met with the teen’s family on Monday to plan the memorial.

RELATED: What we know about Tristyn Bailey

Bailey was found dead about 6 p.m. May 9, several hours after her family reported her missing. Authorities suspect she was killed by 14-year-old Aiden Fucci, though the investigation of her murder is ongoing.

While other vigils and fundraisers have been planned, this is the first scheduled by her family. At the request of the family, the service will be streamed on News4Jax.com, our app and on various streaming platforms like Roku, Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV.

The family of Tristyn Bailey has asked News4Jax to stream her memorial service because of the overwhelming attention and support they've received from across the country.

Pastor Jeffrey McDuffie, a 16-year veteran at the church who oversees counseling, met with Bailey’s family members. He said they’re going through a rollercoaster of emotions, which is to be expected after suffering such a heartbreaking tragedy.

“Really, it’s just about listening,” he said. “Allowing people to cry, allowing people to feel, allowing them to say what’s on their mind.”

McDuffie said the community is understandably devastated. Many of them knew both Bailey and her accused killer, Fucci.

“I know there’s a lot of emotions, a lot of things going on out there, but to the best of your ability, allow love to take place, to take place in your heart,” he said. “And not bitterness and not hatred. Because no matter what has happened, if we let any of that take root in our hearts, it’s going to do more harm than it will do good.”

Pastor Bob Thyer works hand in hand with McDuffie and people grieving after suffering losses in their lives.

“Don’t forget the family a month from now, two months from now,” Thyer said. “Because that’s when the emptiness of her loss is going to really hit the family. So follow up with their friends, with the dad, with mom, and be there.”

Thyer acknowledged even people who aren’t affiliated with the case are traumatized by the details.

“I think it would be a reminder to take the opportunity to put your arms around your own kids,” he said. “And tell them that you love them. Because these kinds of circumstances we cannot predict. We just don’t know. So be sure to take the opportunity to love the people that are close to you.”

McDuffie said Bailey’s family members were humbled and thankful for the support they’ve gotten in the past week.

“I would say, just for the community to understand is man there is a young lady who lost her life and there’s a family who is grieving,” he added. “And that family is going to definitely require a lot of love and a lot of support.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.