She never met a stranger.
She lit up every room she was in.
She was a person who gave love to everybody she met.
These were some of the many descriptions friends and family of Juliana Farmer shared at her funeral and a community peace vigil in her honor on April 22 and 23.
“She was somebody who was able to love everybody,” said her mother, Monessa Bard, during the funeral.
Farmer, 45, was one of five victims of a mass shooting at Old National Bank in downtown Louisville on April 10. She had only been working at the bank for two weeks.
Bard told funeral attendees that the ceremony was a celebration.
“You didn’t come out for a funeral,” she said. “This is a celebration.”
She said she had visited her daughter in Louisville the Thursday before her death, and she was happy about her new job and apartment. Bard told her she’d never seen her daughter so happy.
“Mama, I love it here,” Bard said her daughter told her.
Farmer had reached a level of success in her career, and both she and her mother were proud. Farmer had moved to Louisville from Henderson to work as a commercial loan analyst.
“She had found herself a job she wanted, not a job she had to take,” Bard said. “She chose what she wanted, and when she chose it, she was happy. She didn’t pass away sad. She didn’t pass away just to pass away. Because her living is not in vain.”
She ended her words at the funeral with a quotation from 2 Samuel.
“I cannot go with you but I will see you again.”
Farmer’s son, J’Yeon Chambers, said even though his mother had been at the Louisville bank for a short time, he’d been told she’d already turned into the colleague that people went to when their day was not going well. She could turn that bad day into a good one, he said.
His sister, A’lia Chambers, agreed, saying there was a radiance about her that made people want to smile.
“She made everyone happy,” A’lia said.
They said her presence with people was a gift that came from God.
“It was her superpower,” J’Yeon said.
The weekend of April 22-24 was filled with the visitation on Friday, funeral on Saturday and the peace vigil on Sunday. The community, the siblings said, supported them in all hours, staying with them and showing them love.
“No one’s letting us have any time to be down,” A’lia said, referring to all the people who came by to see them and stay with them.
The funeral, held Saturday morning at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, was officiated by Rev. Charles Johnson, who also eulogized Farmer. Farmer attended Greater Norris Chapel Baptist Church, where Johnson is pastor.
Johnson early in his eulogy asked a question that remains a mystery to those left on earth.
“Why does God take that which is precious to us and claim it for his own?” he said.
He said once again we in the nation have witnessed innocent lives being taken from us. Communities across the nation are hurting, he said, from the continued mass shootings.
“Until the hearts of men change, guns laws will not change,” he said.
Johnson said he understands how Farmer’s family is feeling because his son died in January from a gunshot. No matter who you are — young, old, rich, poor — “It just hurts,” he said.
He asked what it was that God can offer. His answer was that God provides comfort and strength, which he repeated throughout his eulogy.
He cited Isaiah 40 and returned to its theme often in his eulogy: “‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,’ said the Lord.”
“God will comfort us in a time that we need strength,” he said. “God comes in a time of need.”
He said Farmer’s family is wondering how they can carry on and how to deal with their anger. He was mad at God months ago when his son died. “And I began to wonder Lord, why me?”
“I don’t understand why things happen the way they do,” Johnson said. “But I do know God used Juliana to speak to the world.”
Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman also spoke during the funeral. She said a similar grief is felt by many families across Kentucky.
“We see you. We hear you. And we will remember the life of your loved one as you move forward,” Coleman said.
The other victims in the shooting at the downtown Louisville Old National Bank on April 10 are Tommy Elliot, 63; James Tutt, 64; Deanna Eckert, 57; and Joshua Barrick.
Old National Bank announced in late April it would donate $1 million to support those affected by the shooting. Of that, $600,000 will go toward supporting victims and victims’ families, according to several news reports.
At the peace vigil Sunday afternoon, Henderson Mayor Brad Staton read a city-county joint proclamation declaring April 23, 2023, as Juliana Farmer Day.
Yvonne Hancock, Farmer’s best friend, spoke on behalf of Farmer’s group of best girlfriends. She said she’s still in shock and denial. She calls Farmer’s phone still expecting to talk to her.
But now she’s got a guardian angel watching over her, she said.
“As time goes on, I know our hearts will heal,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
In an interview after the ceremony, she said she and Farmer had known each other since elementary school; they went to North Junior High and Henderson County High School together. They worked together, watched their children grow up together, went to concerts together. “The list goes on and on.”
She urged those gathered to act as Farmer would—treat others with kindness, forgive those who’ve hurt you and stop holding grudges.
“She loved all,” Hancock said. “That’s what she would do.”
J’Yeon Chambers said his mother’s fifth grandchild is due in September. He said the original due date was Sept. 20, his mother’s birthday. A recent visit to the doctor revealed the girl might come a few days later. He said they’ll induce, though, so that the baby girl comes on her grandmother’s birthday.