Family and friends of Antoine Marvin Lewis were finally able to lay his body to rest Saturday after his remains were returned home.
The ceremony at New Faith Baptist Church International in Matteson included full military honors for the Army captain with the playing of taps and a gun salute.
Lewis had been onboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March en route to Nairobi, Kenya, when it crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board.
He was 39 years old.
Family members during Saturday's service said Lewis loved his family, his country and the homeland of his ancestors, Africa.
Rodney Lewis said his younger brother had been in Africa working to establish a business there.
"He had big plans," Lewis said. "And those plans weren't just talk."
Lewis' widow, Yalena Lopez-Lewis, held back tears describing how they had planned to see the pyramids in Egypt, go on a safari and stand on top of Mount Sinai.
Together, she said, they felt like they could conquer the world.
"I'm lost and not a soul can tell me where I'm supposed to be," she said.
Several public officials also spoke at the service, including U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly and Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin, who is a neighbor of the Lewis family and has known them for more than 20 years.
"Your loss is our loss," Chalmers-Currin told the family. "The village of Matteson stands with you."
Lewis grew up in Matteson and graduated from Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields.
State Rep. Debbie Myers-Martin said it is especially unsettling when someone leaves in the prime of their life like Lewis, but she tried to give some encouragement to his family.
"Love is a bond that death cannot break," she said. "Antoine is gone from your arms but he will always be in all of our hearts."
Kelly commended Lewis on his service in the military.
"Thank you for your sacrifice, courage and bravery," she said. "We wouldn't be what we are without his sacrifice."
Lewis had served in the Army for 15 years and was stationed in Canada where he lived with his 15-year-old son.
He was assigned to U.S. Army North as part of the U.S. Army Military Personnel Exchange Program.
Lewis also was deployed to Afghanistan from Sept. 2011 to Sept. 2012 and had earned a dozen medals, ribbons and badges for his service.
"We're left behind with selfish grief, broken hearts and disbelief," wrote Lewis' sister, Antoinette Lewis, in a poem dedicated to her brother. "The pride we had to know you is so immense. But so, too, the sorrow we have from living without you is intense. ... If America only knew what they lost when they lost you."
Lewis was one of 346 victims of two fatal crashes involving Boeing's 737 Max airplane.
In July, Lopez-Lewis filed a lawsuit against the company urging it to ban the aircraft from its fleet.
This article is written by Frank Vaisvilas from The Daily Southtown, Tinley Park, Ill. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
Read more: Tricare Enrollment for 2020 Is Now Open