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Colorful gravesite honors North Carolina teen

etheridge pic.jpg
Posted at 3:35 PM, Oct 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-03 14:57:19-04

CURRITUCK Co., N.C. - A pink gravesite in a small cemetery pays tribute to a big legacy in northeastern North Carolina.

On Saturday, family and friends of Jessica Taylor Etheridge gathered at Chatham Cemetery for the site's unveiling.

Etheridge, 17, died suddenly in July, her parents said. The teen had Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, and doctors told her mom and dad she wouldn't live past 7 years old.

She made it 10 additional years, touching countless lives in her native Moyock, along with doctors in Elizabeth City and Hampton Roads.

"She was a very happy child; very happy. Loving, touching. She was everything a parent would want in a child," said Ina Etheridge, who adopted Jessica at just 1 year old.

Ina and her husband, William, uncovered Jessica's gravesite in front of around two dozen people who sang and prayed at a small ceremony just prior to the unveiling.

The site isn't only pink... it also has pictures of Jessica on it.

Among those in attendance were Jessica's adopted and birth family members, people she met through school and her caretaker of 14 years.

"For the first month [after she died], it's like I woke up every day crying, but today was a happy day just to see this beautiful headstone," said Banita Simmons, Jessica's caretaker.

The Etheridge family says the idea for the headstone came from Horton's Funeral Home and Cremations in Elizabeth City.