Dejah Joyner would have turned 14 earlier this month but instead of celebrating it with the seventh-grader, about 50 of her fellow Girl Scouts mourned the two-year anniversary of her death on Saturday at her grave at the Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.
Dejah died on Oct. 17, 2015, more than a day after the 12-year-old was shot in the head as she ate dinner in her family’s living room on Dartmouth Street in Hempstead.
“We want to always have her remembered,” said Shameka Walker, one of the leaders of Dejah’s Girl Scout troop, at the grave-site memorial service.
More than 100 family members, friends and Girl Scouts attended the memorial service, many wearing white or pink — Dejah’s favorite color — clothes and buttons emblazoned with her photos. The Girl Scouts released white and pink balloons into the sky, saying “long live Princess Dejah” as they let go of the strings after three members of the Uniondale High School’s show choir sang.
Her headstone, which is shaped like a castle and includes a photo of her as well as her beloved Hello Kitty cartoon, was surrounded by flowers, birthday cards and Hello Kitty stuffed animals. Her birthday was Oct. 5.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,” her mother, Keisha Miles-Joyner, said tearfully. “It’s amazing.”
“It means a lot,” added her father, Dameon Joyner, who was the troop’s “Cookie Dad” for the annual cookie sale.
Dejah’s fellow Girl Scouts, who make up Troop 1134 of Union Baptist Church in Hempstead, will honor her parents on Sunday with a plaque at the church.
“She was just full of laughter, full of excitement,” her friend and fellow Girl Scout Samya Suarez, 14, of Uniondale said, recalling how the scouts and their families gathered at the chapel in Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola as the news spread of the shooting. “We just didn’t want her name to die.”
Dejah’s troop also dedicated their work to make libraries at homeless shelters in Hempstead, Hicksville and Jericho for their Silver Award to her.
Jakwan Keller of Hempstead has been charged in her death. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail awaiting trial.