WILKES-BARRE — Members of the Mount Zion Baptist Church youth choir performed “Circle of Life” one of the classic songs from Disney’s “The Lion King.” The movie was one of Erik DuPree, Devon Major, and Ezekiel Major’s favorites.
The Hill Street church hosted a memorial service on Nov. 25 for the three brothers who died after a house fire in Laflin on Oct. 25. Police believe the fire was intentionally set. Preston Daquon Bonnett, 26, of Wilkes-Barre, has been charged with three counts each of criminal homicide and arson.
Even though the brothers were cremated shortly after their deaths, their mother, Susan Major, and other family members and friends arranged a ceremony to celebrate the boys’ lives at Major’s church. All attendees were asked to wear white.
Major was hard to miss in a beaded white gown as she walked down the aisle to take her seat up front, with her brother and friend holding her arms.
Though there were some tears and heartache, the purpose of the service was to help lift up those feeling down while honoring and remembering Erik, 16, Devon, 12, and Ezekiel, 7.
“They loved life — they lived life,” Pastor Michael Brewster said, referring to the boys.
Roses in three different colors were handed to everyone at the church. Family members were given white roses, while friends were given light pink roses. Health care providers who assisted the boys were given dark pink roses as a sign of gratitude. Family friends from the church as well as the boys’ principal, Adam Frazier of Commonwealth Charter Academy in Harrisburg, read various passages from scripture and offered prayers to comfort Major and others who were grieving.
Cyrus and Tonya Solomon, who served as the boys’ mentors, shared funny stories about them and described them as “good kids” who were sweet, loving, smart and respectful. “We didn’t have a lot of time with them, but from May to October, they became our nephews quick,” said Tonya.
She also said the boys spent a lot of time with Cyrus as he “became the man in their life,” offering guidance to help them get through some growing pains. However, they still remained close with their mother.
“They loved their mother and they were always up underneath her,” Tonya said.
Family friend and spokesperson Sharee Clark read an obituary for each one of the brothers. Erik’s interests included gaming, traveling with his brothers and mother, bike riding, music and cars.
“Erik was all about his afro as well as discovering and looking into his family heritage,” Clark said. “Erik wanted to learn more about his roots as he loved his parents.”
Devon also loved music, making beats, and rapping. In addition, he had an interest in technology marketing apps and social media. He had dreams of making it big as a millionaire YouTuber.
“He was a big boy who had a big heart, ” Clark said. “He loved being a big brother, but would often complain about being the middle child.” Several audience members laughed in response.
Ezekiel was born in Phoenix, Arizona, unlike his two older brothers who were both born in Pennsylvania. His kidneys and liver were donated and used to help patients who needed transplants.
“Because he was the baby, his brothers would say he was so spoiled,” Clark said. “Spoiled or not, he tirelessly looked up to his brothers for approval from both of them.”
The service concluded with a balloon release on the church steps.
Major, with the help of Clark, Pastor Brewster, and others, released light pink, dark pink, and white balloons into the sky — each color representing one of her sons.