Oxford victim Justin Shilling's lively spirit anchors funeral service

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

In his short life, Justin Shilling filled many roles: a devoted friend, brother, teammate, sports fan and employee.

The 17-year-old Oxford High School student was remembered during his funeral Thursday as an oft-smiling presence with plenty of plans and connections.

The abrupt end for him and three other classmates in the shooting attack at his school on Nov. 30 was a haunting reminder of what could have been, mourners said.

"When a death such as this occurs, and the deaths of those others in this wonderful community, it cuts across life, doesn’t it?" said Michael Goddard, a chaplain at McLaren Oakland hospital who presided over the service. "... We’re left with a certain incompleteness. We know that Justin leaves many, many things unfinished, unfulfilled, unsaid." 

Mourners gathered Thursday for services for Oxford High School shooting victim Justin Shilling at Boulder Pointe Golf Club and Banquet Center in Oxford.

The live-streamed funeral at the Boulder Pointe Golf Club and Banquet Center in Oxford marked the final service for the victims in the shooting.

Hundreds of mourners packed the site, adorned with photos showing the teen at home, school and earning his reputation as a "wicked spike baller."

At Oxford High, Shilling was a senior and co-captain of the school's bowling team.

In a nod to that, a cluster of bowling pins and a ball were displayed not far from his casket, which stood beside pale yellow flowers and the school's Wildcats logo.

A long line of teammates gathered to bow their heads and pay respects after the MercyMe song "I Can Only Imagine" played.

"I can only imagine what bowling ball Justin's using on those heavenly lanes," Goddard said.

In a gesture to Shilling's love of golf, some youths also solemnly placed clubs in a bag. 

The teen's hobbies and spirit anchored the nearly hour-long service.

Goddard shared memories of a lively student who excelled in school, worked in many places and doted on his family and friends.

Justin Shilling, 17.

Shilling was the second of three boys born to Jill Soave and Craig Shilling. He and his family lived in Marine City before relocating to Oakland County in 2010. He attended Daniel Axford Elementary School, Oxford Elementary School then Oxford Middle School, according to his obituary.

Relatives said Shilling started working as early as age 13, filling in at a Thai restaurant.  He went on to amass a long list of jobs, including a steakhouse, the Independence Village senior living facility and Red Knapp’s in Rochester, according to his obituary.

The teen most recently worked at Anita’s Kitchen in Lake Orion.

He was known for loving music, spending time in nature, watching reruns of the show “The Office” and University of Michigan football games. Shilling also dreamed about someday owning a Mustang GT, his obituary said.

Between sharing reflections from the Bible and writings such as Margaret Mead's "Remember Me," Goddard told the audience that the funeral should be seen as a thanksgiving and celebration of a well-lived life.

"We are grateful for the gift of his life and grateful that Justin lived with us and amongst us," he said.

The chaplain relayed a story from his coach, J.R. Lafnear, about how Shilling once helped a teacher who had undergone surgery.

The youth "quietly volunteered to write the teacher’s lesson plan on the board and then he carried the teacher’s belongings to her vehicle. And then, as the teacher recovered, Justin continued to check on her throughout the year," he said. "My friends, if that’s not living the gospel message of love, I don’t know what is."

Goddard noted Shilling's organs were donated. "...Today many people live because of his love, because of the love of his family, because of his gift of life," he said.

Shilling died the morning after the shooting at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac.

A GoFundMe effort to support a memorial in his name has raised more than $119,000 through Thursday.

Another visitation is scheduled from noon until 8 p.m. Friday at Chas. Verheyden funeral home, 43300 Garfield Road in Clinton Township. 

A private burial is planned for the Preserve at All Saints Cemetery in Waterford Township.

Services have been held for the three other teens slain: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Madisyn Baldwin, 17.

Six students and a teacher were wounded in the attack.

The last student remaining hospitalized, a 17-year-old girl, was moved Thursday from the intensive care unit to a standard room for up to six weeks of rehabilitation, the Sheriff's Office said.

The suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, remains held without bond in the Oakland County Jail pending a Dec. 13 probable cause conference. He has been charged with 24 counts, including first-degree murder and terrorism.

On Thursday, attorney Geoffrey Fieger announced survivors of the shooting are filing two $100 million lawsuits against the school district and employees.

Meanwhile, officials said this week the school building is not expected to reopen until at least January. Students can reclaim some of their possessions starting next week, the principal said.

Multiple fundraisers continue for the victims.

Oxford Bank, Oxford Community Schools and the Oxford DDA also have launched the "Oxford Community Memorial and Victims Fund" to accept donations. Genisys Credit Union established another account.

Officials have an "Oxford Strong" drop box for cards and letters in front of Township Hall at 300 Dunlap Rd.