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Profile in Life, Ja'Nae Hornsby

Ja'Nae Hornsby, 9, loved to play dress up and loved being a big sister to 2-year-old Jia
by William Crum Published: June 22, 2013

Ja'Nae Hornsby had her daddy's smile.

That's clear to anyone who's met Joshua Hornsby, whose 9-year-old daughter died along with six other third-graders in the tornado that destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary school in Moore on May 20.

Her smile stood out in the slideshow at her May 31 funeral.

There was Ja'Nae, smiling with Bugs Bunny at Six Flags. Ja'Nae smiling the weekend before her death, at her uncle's high school graduation in Guthrie. Ja'Nae clowning with beads. Ja'Nae smiling with her father, in his infantryman's uniform.

“Ja'Nae was love,” her father said. “And if you knew Ja'Nae then you knew love.”

Her mother had complications with her pregnancy. Ja'Nae was born a month early, on Nov. 20, 2003, at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

“From that day we knew Ja'Nae was always going to be special,” Joshua said.

She loved to travel — often with her grandparents — visiting states including Texas, Florida and California. A treat last year was visiting the aquarium in Las Vegas.

At home, Ja'Nae and her dad would draw and color, or put on a movie.

“Some Saturdays it would just be me and her,” Joshua said. “We'd lay on the bed or on the couch and watch movies all day long.”

Favorites included Eddie Murphy's “Norbit,” “Puss in Boots” and “The Lorax.”

“Any movie she wanted to watch, we would watch it,” Joshua said.

She read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and watched “Hannah Montana” on the Disney Channel and “iCarly” on Nickelodeon.

In school, teacher Jennifer Doan told Joshua that Ja'Nae “was always happy, willing to help others, and smart, very smart, always wanted to ask all the questions.”

“She'd get done with her work and wanted to help other kids,” he said.

Ja'Nae's mother, Jocelyn, died in 2012.

“It hurt her,” Joshua said, “but she was a strong child.”

Ja'Nae worked hard to be a big sister to 2-year-old Jia.

“Ja'Nae would be singing and Jia would be walking along right behind her singing with her. She loved playing with her little sister, doing everything with her,” Joshua said.

“She had this little microphone that had songs on it and so they would sing little songs or she'd be trying to teach Jia how to sing the songs,” he said. “She can't talk very well yet but she would sing it in her own little words.”

When she was little, Joshua said, Ja'Nae “used to love to sleep on my chest.”

And she loved baloney.

“Daddy, I want some ba-lone-eee,” she'd say.

“She'd drag it out like that,” Joshua said. “She'd ask everybody.

“When Ja'Nae got strong enough to open the refrigerator, we'd put it low enough where she could get the baloney, she'd go in there and get it herself.”

by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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