Foster child’s family united in mourning

BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Modified: December 1, 2008 at 6:28 am •  Published: December 1, 2008
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photo - John Gifford, 5
John Gifford, 5
The family of John Gifford, 5, was united in love for him at a joint funeral service for his mother’s and father’s families.

"We just wanted a respectful service for our son and to put aside all the other things,” said John’s father, Melvern Gifford, 40. "We all love him very much, and that’s most important.”

John died Tuesday in an accident on a private driveway near Wilson, officials said. John had been in foster care since the state Department of Human Services took custody of him three years ago. His biological family last saw him more than a year ago, relatives said.

At the funeral Sunday afternoon at Sunny Lane Funeral Home, Pastor Dwight Pinson noted the family’s strength in coming together to celebrate John’s life and mourn his loss.

"We’re all family, God’s family,” he said. "We just have to trust almighty God that He knows what he’s doing.”

John was described as a happy, smiling boy who loved hats and to chase his pet iguana. He also liked to help out around the house, specifically to help unload the dishwasher, even if it had only recently been loaded. John loved to munch on radishes, which he called "apples.”

All of John’s minor siblings are in state custody and were not at his funeral Sunday.

DHS will hold a separate funeral service for John, but the public and his biological family will not be allowed to attend.

DHS has declined to disclose the time and location of the service. It was not clear whether his minor siblings will attend.

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