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At graveside service, heartfelt message from family, friends: ‘We have survived’

  • Mary Kociela of Montague, left, Patricia Morton of Chicopee and Yoko Kato of South Hadley bow their heads as Reverend Ives says a blessing over the grave of Sherry Morton and her son Cedric who were killed in a domestic violence tragedy. The service was held in Spring Grove Cemetery and was attended by many family members and friends on January 11, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Mary Kociela of Montague, left, Patricia Morton of Chicopee and Yoko Kato of South Hadley bow their heads as Reverend Ives says a blessing over the grave of Sherry Morton and her son Cedric who were killed in a domestic violence tragedy. The service was held in Spring Grove Cemetery and was attended by many family members and friends on January 11, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeannie Banas of South Hadley, the sister of Sherry Morton, speaks about the tragedy of domestic violence during the public remembrance service at Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on Friday.<br/><br/> It was held 20 years after Morton and her son Cedric were murdered.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Jeannie Banas of South Hadley, the sister of Sherry Morton, speaks about the tragedy of domestic violence during the public remembrance service at Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on Friday.

    It was held 20 years after Morton and her son Cedric were murdered.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A large crowd gathered for the 20-year graveside service for Sherry Morton and her son Cedric who were killed in a domestic violence tragedy. The Service was attended by Yoko Kato and many friends on January 11, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    A large crowd gathered for the 20-year graveside service for Sherry Morton and her son Cedric who were killed in a domestic violence tragedy. The Service was attended by Yoko Kato and many friends on January 11, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sherry Morton and her son Cedric are featured in a photograph on a program to the 20-year graveside service held for family and friends in Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on January 11, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Sherry Morton and her son Cedric are featured in a photograph on a program to the 20-year graveside service held for family and friends in Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on January 11, 2013.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mary Kociela of Montague, left, Patricia Morton of Chicopee and Yoko Kato of South Hadley bow their heads as Reverend Ives says a blessing over the grave of Sherry Morton and her son Cedric who were killed in a domestic violence tragedy. The service was held in Spring Grove Cemetery and was attended by many family members and friends on January 11, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Jeannie Banas of South Hadley, the sister of Sherry Morton, speaks about the tragedy of domestic violence during the public remembrance service at Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on Friday.<br/><br/> It was held 20 years after Morton and her son Cedric were murdered.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • A large crowd gathered for the 20-year graveside service for Sherry Morton and her son Cedric who were killed in a domestic violence tragedy. The Service was attended by Yoko Kato and many friends on January 11, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Sherry Morton and her son Cedric are featured in a photograph on a program to the 20-year graveside service held for family and friends in Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence on January 11, 2013.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

Despite freezing rain and darkness at the cemetery, participants lingered to share funny and touching memories of the pair.

Sean Seabrooks, Cedric’s father, is serving life in prison for stabbing his former girlfriend and son to death in their home at Meadowbrook Apartments on Jan. 11, 1993.

Morton’s mother, Yoko Kato, and her older sister, Jeannie Banas, both of South Hadley, said that after years of near-paralyzing sorrow and a long court battle, they feel like survivors.

Kato has become a recognized expert in combating domestic violence, both in the United States and in her native Japan. A reporter from Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, attended the ceremony to document it for his publication.

Working to end domestic violence has given her a new purpose in life, Kato said. “Helping others helps me,” she said, between greeting friends with hugs and kisses before the 6 p.m. ceremony.

Cedric “brought us so much love and happiness,” Kato told the gathering. “I missed seeing him grow up to be a man.”

“Twenty years is a long time,” said Banas. “If we survived the first 20 years, we know we can survive the second half.”

The Rev. Peter Ives, former pastor of First Churches of Northampton, said Morton and her son “will live in our hearts and in our community forever.”

Kato’s grandson, Trevor Banas, read a poem he wrote, saying, “We cherish the gift that your living brought to each of us.”

Ives urged the crowd to “not let tragedy be the decisive memory” of Morton and her son, but to remember “their youth, their exuberance and their love,” including Cedric’s penchant for “sloppy cookie kisses.”

“Twenty years ago, you looked into the face of tragedy and decided to do what you could do,” Ives told Kato and Banas during his remarks. “You sent out ripples to the far corners of the earth. For all you have done, we thank you.”

Capt. Joseph Koncas of the Northampton Police Department, who attended the ceremony, said the murders were so violent that all members of the force, and the community at large, were affected.

“The community suffered deep sorrow. It was a terrible tragedy,” he said. “It was akin to what people in Sandy Hook are feeling.”

Kim Quinlan of Northampton, who attended the event on crutches due to a torn tendon, said her husband Michael Quinlan was a close friend of Morton and was her son’s godfather. “He was a member of the family,” she said.

Lois Paré of Granby said she attended because she is friends with Kato and because the two women share tragic losses — Paré’s son, Jose Caraballo, died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at age 13 in 1991.

“It’s a different level of grief,” she said of her son’s death. “But a loss is a loss.”

Banas told the crowd that her family still mourns her sister and nephew, but the pain eventually became “tolerable and manageable.”

“Someone once told me that I would never experience the same pain that I felt at the moment (of learning of the murders). I didn’t believe it,” she said. “The sadness is still there and, sometimes, the anger. But our family is OK. You are all OK. We have survived.”

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NORTHAMPTON Soon after the killings, Yoko went in search of counseling. She drove to her doctor’s office in Florence and waited for a psychotherapist in a room lit by skylights and floor lamps and decorated with a colorful quilt. Behind a counter, staff clattered away at keyboards. When she was called in, Yoko found herself pouring it all out – …

Legacy Comments1

Hi I am Aryn Banas, Jeannie's daughter and you made some mistakes on the ceremony tonight. First, my brother Trevor did not write up the poem himself, it was a poem we got online and a unknown author. Second, tonight I had said a speech during the ceremony and their should be some type of mention of it in my speech. Thank you.

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