When PJ Staab heard from a fellow funeral director about Hunter Lee Drew’s love for motorcycles, he had the ultimate tribute.
A 2013 Harley-Davidson funeral hearse Staab had personally made for the Springfield funeral home transported the remains of Hunter, a three-year-old from Carlinville who sustained a brain bleed and died on Oct. 20, on his “final ride” Tuesday.
“I thought,” said Staab, president of Staab Funeral Homes, “it might honor the young boy. We volunteered it to help bring about peace and healing for his life.”
Read more:Family feared the worst after the boy was removed from their care. Unfortunately, they were right
About 30 local motorcyclists took part in the ride from Girard, where Hunter’s funeral was held at Davis-Anderson Funeral Home, to the Illinois Capitol Building in Springfield.
Patrick Quigley, the father of Kiel Quigley, Hunter’s one-time foster father, said motorcyclists from all over the world, expressed condolences for Hunter. Patrick Quigley, a chaplain for Kodesh Mishkan (Holy Tabernacle) Ministry Group — a biker chaplaincy group that provides emergency assistance after disasters — led the motorcycle procession.
“When a motorcycle rumbles, you feel it in here,” said Quigley, pointing to his chest. “For Hunter (who had about 90% hearing loss), that’s sound you can hear.”
Quigley last saw Hunter at Kiel’s wedding in Sherman on Oct. 15. Kiel and Hailee Quigley of Mt. Auburn were foster parents to Hunter for about a year before he went to live with his biological father, Christopher Gunn, in Carlinville on Aug. 30.
Ashley Nichole Bottoms, 33, Gunn’s live-in girlfriend, faces involuntary manslaughter and endangering the life of a child causing death charges.
Charging documents from Macoupin County indicate that Bottoms was breaking up a fight between two juveniles at the Carlinville home when she allegedly threw Hunter against a half wall. Hunter’s head struck a ledge, leading to blunt force trauma and a brain bleed, causing his death.
Macoupin County state’s attorney Jordan Garrison said last week that authorities were aware Bottoms was in the car with Hunter for over three hours. Videotaped evidence indicated Bottoms was running errands in Carlinville before going to Litchfield to pick up Gunn from work.
Bottoms, who is being held in the Macoupin County Jail on a $250,000 bond, has a preliminary court hearing Nov. 10.
Speaking to The State Journal-Register on Tuesday, Kiel Quigley, Hunter’s uncle, admitted the last two weeks have been “a whirlwind of emotions.”
“We’ve been spending a lot of time with family, a lot of time with the kids, just trying to talk through it, walk through it with them,” he added. “The greater Springfield area, the 217 area, has been fantastic as far as support goes. The outpouring has been amazing.”
Quigley said his four-year-old son, Aric, who was described as Hunter’s “best friend,” has been taking the loss hard.
“When he looks at pictures (of Hunter), he’s still trying to figure it out, figure out where his best friend is,” Quigley said.
Patrick Quigley recalled Hunter running around Kiel and Hailee’s wedding reception, playing with his cowboy hat.
“That little kid,” Quigley said, “kind of made the day for me in a big way that was already a big day for us. Seeing how good he was doing, was such a blessing. To say it comes as a shock to everybody is an understatement. To know that it could have been prevented is a challenge.”
Previously:Hunter Drew loved motorcycles. A final ride will take the 3-year-old home
Hunter was “a happy little kid who had the silliest grin,” Quigley added. “Kiel said it so many times that Hunter lit up the room when he came in. You knew he was going to make the day.”
Kiel Quigley, who was critical of Hunter’s move to Carlinville mandated by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said the family is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding the agency.
“We’re waiting on all the reports. We’re still waiting for all of the investigations to wrap up,” he said. “Once we get all the information, we’ll decide what our next move is from there.”
Bill McCaffrey, a spokesperson for DCFS, said a Montgomery County court ordered Hunter to be reunited with his father in August after a service plan and home safety checklist were completed. A case worker visited the home six times in September and October to ensure the child was in a safe environment, he added.
Staab said the “fifth wheel” hearse, attached to the back of the three-wheeler Harley-Davidson, was one of about 100 custom-made by Jack Feather in Bedford, Pennsylvania and later Tombstone, Arizona. The funeral home purchased it in 2013.
Staab said the hearse gets used on average about once a month.
“It personalizes the final ride,” Staab said.
Jack and Kathy Crissey from Virden were part of Tuesday’s ride. Kathy Crissey is a cousin of Richard “Rick” Drew, Hunter’s grandfather.
“We just thought this would be the least we could do for the little fella, just come and ride,” she said. “We’re seeing him off in style.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” Jack Crissey added. “It’s Hunter’s day.”
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.