Over 100 family members and friends gathered Tuesday evening at the site where a Willis teen died in a motor vehicle accident last weekend.
Toni Lynn Taylor, 19, died on the scene of a one-vehicle crash on Cedar Lane in the early hours of Saturday while driving home from her boyfriend’s house. She called her mom at 1:30 to say she was en route, but she never arrived. A little after 3 a.m., Toni’s mom and boyfriend went searching for her and lived their worst nightmare when both happened upon the fatal accident scene between Clint Parker and FM 1484.
Somehow, both her mom and boyfriend mustered the courage to return to that spot for a candlelight memorial where grieving loved ones shared prayers and memories of Toni.
Kiera remembered her younger sister as a “beautiful young woman who loved everybody.”
“She was always there when you needed her,” Kiera said.
The family was surprised at the large turnout for the vigil on such short notice.
“It just shows how much she touched people,” Kiera said. “She was passionate about everything and everyone. It didn’t matter what they looked like or how they dressed.”
Kiera laughed through tears as she recalled the unique way she and her sister greeted one another. She said a young family member had difficulty with the word “something” and instead said “sunteen,” which they began to repeat. They enjoyed it so much, she said, when they saw one another, they would call out, “Sunteen!”
“I love her so much – I’m gonna miss her,” Kiera said.
Aunt’s son had a speech problem – couldn’t say “something” said sunteen and when they saw one another they would call out “sunteen” each time they saw each other
Toni’s mom, Nona, said her daughter was “an amazing girl.”
“Her smile could light up the darkest room, and she had blue eyes you could just get lost in,” Nona said. “She had an amazing sense of humor and a way of making everybody smile.”
Toni was a positive person, with a way of always looking on the bright side of things, her mom said. Toni was always trying to help the underdog and the outcast, and would go out of her way to include kids who were left on the sideline or alone at the lunch table, Nona said.
“Kids always flocked to (Toni),” she said. “But she was very humble about it.”
Toni graduated from high school in May and was scheduled to start college in January. Shortly before her death, Toni learned she got the job she applied for at Ulta, a popular beauty produce retail store. She was very excited, Nona said.
“She had plans, but God had different plans,” she said. “I can’t put into words the devastation it brings not only to a family, but to a mother.”
Toni also had plans for a future with her boyfriend, Nick. The pair met in junior high school and had been a couple since seventh or eighth grade.
He was afraid to ask her out the first time and had someone else do it for him between classes. Then Nick watched in confusion as Toni did not answer, but ran into a classroom. Shortly thereafter, Nick began attending church and they saw one another there. Soon, he was her number one fan on MySpace, and their relationship blossomed from there. Nona said Nick was handling the tragedy as well as could be expected.
Nona said she always taught her children to live each day as though it might be their last, not leaving angry or parting with harsh words. Every time they fought, or Toni got in trouble, her mom made her smile in the end, to let her see it was okay. Now she is even gladder she did.