SAVOY, Ill. (WCIA) — A memorial service for Yingying Zhang took place Friday afternoon.
An area church held the service in honor of Zhang. The Chinese visiting University of Illinois scholar was kidnapped and killed two years ago. Brendt Christensen was sentenced to life in prison for her murder.
The service was at the First Baptist Church; a joint venture with Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church. It started at 1 p.m. and was open to the public.
A program booklet given out at the memorial described Zhang as a considerate person who was always willing to give a helping hand when someone else was in need. She had spent time volunteering as a teacher in underprivileged areas.
First Baptist Church Lead Pastor Chuck Moore described Zhang as a “beautiful young lady who made her family very proud; a friend who was kind, joyful, caring, and giving.”
“We gather today with hearts filled with sadness and souls tattered in grief,” Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church Pastor Tim Bossenbroek said. In prayer, Bossenbroek mentions Zhang’s “brilliant and inquisitive mind,” and her desire to serve others with her talents.
Yingying Zhang’s father, Ranggao Zhang, thanked people for their “comfort, support, and prayers,” and said “no words can express how grateful and thankful they are.”
Ranggao told a story about a time when Yingying was in middle school and celebrated her mom’s birthday by turning off the lights and bringing out a cake with candles to surprise her.
A word from Lifeng Ye, Zhang’s mother, ended with ”Every mother’s day and Chinese New Year I think of her. I miss her so much, in pain and suffering!”
“Yingying was a girl with a big dream,” Zhang’s fiancé Xiaolin Hou said. “She had a clear plan for the future and she had the brightest smile I’ve ever seen. There is no doubt that I would not be who I am today without Yingying.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” Pastor Chuck Moore said. “We have managed to come together and dismantle the walls that sometimes keep us apart.”
The University of Illinois created an endowment fund in Zhang’s honor. It will be called “Yingying’s Fund” and will be available to international students in crisis.