Kids, grandmother remembered at funeral

By Heather Leigh, Mobile journalist, hleigh@wjxt.com
Vic Micolucci, General assignment reporter, vic@wjxt.com
Crystal Moyer, Morning assignment desk, backup traffic reporter, cmoyer@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:10:12 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 25 2014 10:21:49 PM EDT

Just more than a week after a house fire killed three young children, and their grandmother, the community came together to remember them and lay them to rest. The sole survivor, 6-year-old Hattie, says goodbye to 4 members of her family.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The Fowler family and community members gathered Wednesday to say goodbye to three kids and their grandmother after they were killed in a mobile home fire last week in Oceanway.

The lives of Shelia Swearingen, 53, and her three grandchildren, 4-year-old Richard "Bubba," 2-year-old Rachel and 10-month-old Janet Fowler were remembered at Hardage-Giddens Town and Country Funeral Home on the Westside.

"I don't know why God took my little babies from me, but now my little babies are in heaven waiting on the day mommy can be with her little ones once again," said Jennifer Fowler, the children's mother and the daughter of Swearingen. "I wish I could go to heaven now so I could be with my little babies. But I have to stay here and take care of Hattie."

"For now, grandma is in heaven taking care of my little babies," Fowler added. "Mama, I love you so much. I'm so sorry this happened. Until I see you again in heaven, goodbye, mama."

The children's sister, 6-year-old Hattie, was pulled from the fire by a 13-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle past the mobile home.

"There are so many questions I want to ask God," the pastor who officiated the funeral said. "But as long as we are here on Earth, not all things are understandable."

It was a packed house at the funeral home Wednesday. People came from all over. In the front row were the parents of the children and Hattie.

Family members shared precious memories of the children and their grandmother.

The funeral was followed by a burial service. The funeral director said it took 16 pallbearers to lay them to rest.

"It looks like everybody is going to stick together," relative Lavan Williams said. "Make sure everything is done the right way. You know, everybody is helping and throwing things in for Hattie, and you know we are definitely going to make sure she is taken care of. That's no problem at all."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though investigators believe it was accidental.

The Fowler Family met dozens of supporters outside their grandparents home in Oceanway Wednesday night. A candlelight vigil was held to honor 53-year-old Shelia Swearingen and her three grandchildren, 4-year-old Richard, 2-year-old Rachel and 10-month-old Janet Fowler.

Family and friends walked tonight from the Oceanway mobile home, to the grandparent’s home, to signify the healing process. The family stood and cried, while they prayed for closure and hope.

Jennifer Fowler, the children's mother told News4Jax that recovering from something like this will likely take years. Jennifer Fowler said she felt peace after putting her children and grandmother to rest Tuesday morning.

"I said please don't take my sunshine’s away and god took him away from me. I wake up crying, I go to bed crying, in the morning I cry, and at night, I can't go to sleep, and I start thinking about their little faces and I start crying more. it's like a nightmare I can't wake up from," said Jennifer Fowler

The family said looking forward, they will be taking care of Hattie and making sure she has everything she needs.

The parents are still looking for a safe place to live. There are a lot of people living in the grandfather's house right now. People also hope to set up a scholarship fund for Hattie and take good care of her. Hattie's already gotten a lot of toys and clothes from the community, but she'll need help in the future.

To help the family, you can donate at EverBank, account No. 0010021914 and routing No. 063092110, or drop off items at 525 New Berlin Road.

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