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Rockford family devastated by removal of son’s memorial

Aida and William White made the memorial to honor their son who was hit by a car more than five years ago.
Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A Rockford couple is saddened after someone repeatedly removed their memorial.

“That was horrible enough, but this has even been worse than losing him all together,” said Aida White.

Aida and William White created a memorial to honor their son Willie, who died on March 26, 2016 at the age of 37 after he was hit by an alleged drunk driver near Fincham Dr. and S. Trainer Rd. in Rockford. Perry Johnston of Rockford is facing several charges for his role in the incident such as reckless homicide.

The White family made the memorial at the site where their son took his last steps everyday since his death. They fill the memorial with flowers, lights, and crosses. Someone removed their memorial several times, but on June 25 2021, the memorial was gone with the following note printed out:

“We are sorry for your loss, but this is not a cemetery. We have respectfully allowed you loved one’s display remain here for about 2-3 years. Please visit him/her at their place of rest, in the cemetery. We will continue to remove any objects displayed here.”

“I couldn’t believe it. Family and friends were calling and saying ‘Aida, the memorial’s gone again.’ and then when I saw that letter I just couldn’t believe someone would have the audacity to write that and to leave it there,” Aida White said.

Whoever removed the memorial has a city ordinance on their side. The City of Rockford doesn’t allow memorials in public right-of-ways and will remove the items. The city will hold them for 30 days so they owner can pick them up. Aida White says any items removed her family will replace, no matter how long it takes.

“They can take it down 50 million times, we will put it back up 50 million times.”

Aida and William intend to hold a vigil for their friends and family to honor Willie. No specific date has been set.

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