For five years, Albert Nowicki has journeyed from Wisconsin to attend Modesto's Vigil of Hope, which marks its 10th year Saturday. He comes in memory of his brother, who was found dead in 2003 in a shed in rural Wisconsin. Thomas Nowicki, then 49, was shot in the back of the head at close range.
Being around others who have suffered tragedies, Albert Nowicki said, helps him handle the loss.
Nowicki, 68, has attended the vigil with his son, 41-year-old Albert of Burbank. This year, his daughter also will attend.
After Thomas Nowicki's death, the vigil's organizer, the Carole Sund/ Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation, offered a reward for information that would help solve the case. Though it remains unsolved, Nowicki said he comes to the vigil to support the organization that supported him.
The Modesto-based group reaches out to families of missing persons and homicide victims. It has offered services to families in 47 states, said Scott Webb, who became its executive director in November.
This year, 40 families from around the country are expected to attend. Coming together, Webb said, can make a huge difference.
Info on keeping case alive
"You feel like you're the only person in the world that's going through this situation," he said. "You certainly feel helpless. The police can't tell you a lot about your case. If you have a missing loved one, there's not a lot that you can do. We try to let people know how to get information out and keep the case alive."
Lorrain Taylor will be the keynote speaker Saturday. Her twin sons, Albade and Obadiah Taylor, 22, were shot Feb. 8, 2000, as they worked on Obadiah's stalled Cadillac in East Oakland. Taylor now runs an Oakland-based group called 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Violence. She spends her time denouncing gun violence, delivering donated groceries to grieving families and performing gospel songs in prisons and schools.
"So many people are losing their lives to senseless violence," she said. "We need a government, not just of the people, by the people and for the people, but a government with a vision, a vision of hope for our children."
Jacque MacDonald also will be one of Saturday's speakers. The Merced resident started "The Victim's Voice" public access television show after her daughter's murder in 1988.
MacDonald's daughter, Debi Whitlock, was found dead in her Modesto home March 25. The next day, MacDonald began a crusade to find the killer. Nine years later, police arrested the man who would be convicted of Whitlock's murder. He was found, in part, because of MacDonald's persistence.
Organization founders Francis and Carole Carrington created the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation after the disappearance in 1999 of their daughter and granddaughter and a foreign exchange student who was staying with them in Yosemite National Park. The trio vanished for five weeks before their bodies were found in Tuolumne County.
The foundation has allowed the Carringtons to help others whose loved ones disappear or are killed; the group offers rewards, resources and support. The vigil has been around since the foundation started.
In past years, the event has tended to draw several hundred people, including families with missing or dead loved ones and other community supporters.
Taylor said events such as the vigil provide important support.
"There's lots of healing in numbers," she said. "There's power in numbers. Within those numbers, there's someone who needs healing and someone who can heal. I think that's what it's about."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2235.