MORRIS – Just beyond the Morris city limits, in a roadside ditch along Route 6, a copy of National Geographic was propped Tuesday against a small white cross, staked into the dirt and surrounded by flowers.
Savannah Harris placed the magazine there Tuesday morning.
It was a favorite publication of her brother James, an avid reader.
“He probably had more than 100 National Geographics in his room. He would sit there for hours and hours reading them, then he’d come out and talk about every little thing he learned,” Savannah said as she remembered her brother. “He was so smart. He loved science. He loved politics.”
The small shrine on Route 6 marks the spot where 22-year-old James Harris III of Channahon, and 16-year-old Kendall Forth of Minooka, were killed Sunday night in a one-vehicle accident.
The two were ejected from the backseat of an SUV travelling east on Route 6 after the driver – an 18-year-old male from Shorewood – lost control. A witness reported the SUV passing her at high rate of speed. The vehicle then left the roadway and went into the south ditch where it rolled several times into a neighboring field.
Harris was pronounced dead on scene, and Forth died Monday afternoon at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria after being transported there in critical condition.
The driver and front-seat passenger – a 20-year-old male from Minooka – remain in serious condition and are being treated at area hospitals. The Grundy County sheriff’s department is still investigating the incident and so far no charges have been brought, Sheriff Kevin Callahan said Tuesday.
They will be missed
James will be missed by his parents, three sisters, nephews, niece and dog.
“He was the best brother and a great uncle. He loved his nephews and his niece. He just cared so much about everyone,” Savannah said.
The Harris family is discovering just how influential James was. They have received a flood of emails and messages telling the family how James impacted their life or, in one instance, helped a friend walk away from committing suicide, Savannah said.
“We never realized how much of an impact he made on everyone,” she said.
The younger victim, 16-year-old Forth, wanted to become a make-up artist, and had plans to continue her education at cosmetology school after graduating high school, according to her obituary. She had just completed her sophomore year at Premier Academy in Morris.
Premier Principal Sherri Frost remembers Forth as a talented young woman who made close connections with some of her teachers.
“We’ll miss her terribly, and our hearts go out to her friends and family,” Frost said.
Forth leaves behind her parents, several siblings and grandparents.
“Although our lives will be forever changed without her, we find strength in how the depth [of] her being, albeit only 16 years, has profoundly affected us. She has possessed an extraordinary spirit, which we know will always be a part of us,” Forth’s obituary reads.
The Harris family thanks those friends and loved ones who are supporting them as they cope with the loss.
“From the phone calls, to the flowers, to the people sending their support – it means everything to me, to his mother, to his father and his sisters,” Savannah said. “It just really means the world to us.”