Gospel hymns in rich harmony swept over the mourners yesterday at the funeral of Dorine Fostion, the melodies expressing grief but also celebrating the exuberance that family members said she brought to her life.
About 200 relatives and friends gathered at Holy Christian Missionary Baptist Church for All People on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue in Northeast Washington to remember Fostion, who was killed Aug. 17 by a stray bullet while watching television in her apartment in Southeast.
Mourners cast solemn gazes as they filed past Fostion's white coffin, adorned with a wreath of white, orange and pink roses. Then, with whispered prayers or stifled sobs, they filled the pews.
The large turnout of neighbors was a tribute to a woman who "was known by Ma to everybody," said her daughter, Ryan, 24, tears showing despite her dark glasses. Her daughter said Fostion had an unforgettable "big bright smile" and was always willing to lend a hand and advice in raising her grandchildren.
Fostion was born in Georgia and moved when she was 9 to the District, where she went to public schools. She attended Columbia Union College in Takoma Park. She worked as a nurse's aide at D.C. General Hospital until she suffered an injury in the early 1990s, according to her funeral program.
Fostion had a beautiful personality, said her second cousin Margaret "Noonia" Griffin, who added that "she was always giving." She loved preparing soul food, knew almost the entire city and its bus routes by heart and always sent a card or cooked for someone when she thought it would lift their spirits, said Griffin and another relative, Janelle Gross. With her quick sense of humor and knack for keeping people in line, she also was a favorite with kids, they said.
"She was like my godmother, because my own mother passed away," said James Pinkett, who lived down the block from Fostion and said she helped him through drug rehabilitation.
"I used to go over to her house, and she'd fix me dinner. . . . Everybody's going to miss her," he said, adding that she was "like the mother of the whole neighborhood." Fostion lived with her daughter and two grandchildren in the 2700 block of Robinson Place SE.
At the funeral, speakers said her death should be a call to action. Police said they believe as many as eight people were shooting guns outside Fostion's apartment building when one fired the fatal bullet through her fourth-floor window. Russell Mitchell, 18, the grandson of former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder after eyewitnesses identified him as being among the shooters, but more arrests might follow, according to police.
People need "to respect and love one another so we can pave the way for generations to come and for adults to get more involved with us and for officials to put more programs in our neighborhoods," said Fostion's niece Javanna Luckett, 12, as the crowd called out its approval.
When the Rev. Stephen Young Sr. was to give his eulogy about the pillar of support in the neighborhood, he remarked that Javanna had already given the sermon. "Regardless of what has happened now, we've got to make the best of a bad situation," he said.
Representatives for council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) conveyed condolences to the family and emphasized the need for alternatives to guns, drugs and violence for the city's young people. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) also expressed sorrow.
Ryan Fostion said she wished that the D.C. Housing Authority would offer her a more secure home for her children, a place where they would not need to worry about violence. For her mother, who had wanted to move, it was too late.
"If you want to know where I'm going soon," the choir sang, "I'm going over yonder to be with my Lord. . . . The comfort is in knowing I'll soon be home."
The powerful voices resonated through the church as the singers belted out the lyrics of what her daughter said was one of Fostion's favorite gospel songs.