Arielle Diamond Anderson was known for her infectious smile, quiet confidence and loud compassion.
Those were among the words used Tuesday by family members, educators and politicians to describe Anderson, one of the three students killed last week in a mass shooting at Michigan State University. The 19-year-old’s life was honored at a funeral service at Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit.
Hundreds of people from the community attended the public ceremony to pay their respects, as the pews filled with guests and a line formed outside the front doors.
White and yellow flowers were displayed near Anderson’s silver casket by the church pulpit, along with photos of the teen when she was a baby, little girl and in her cap and gown for her high school graduation.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer noted in remarks during the service that while Anderson’s life was cut short in the cruelest of ways, her impact was undeniable. She said the Harper Woods resident had “loud compassion” for those closest to her, like her aunt with special needs. But most of all, she was a teenage girl who liked to have fun.
Whitmer talked about the videos Anderson made for her YouTube channel, like playing Topgolf with her siblings and getting ready for her senior prom.
“Her future was robbed by a senseless act of violence and it’s not fair,” she said.
The Feb. 13 shooting on MSU’s campus also claimed the lives of Brian Fraser, 20, of Grosse Pointe Park and Alexandria Verner, 20, of Clawson. Five other students were badly injured. Two of the five injured students remain in critical condition at Sparrow Hospital, while the conditions of three others have improved, MSU officials said Monday.
Services for Fraser and Verner were held over the weekend.
Also in attendance Tuesday were many other public officials including Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Michigan State University’s Interim President Teresa Woodruff and Harper Woods Mayor Valarie Kindle.
John Houston and Wayne Todd performed gospel songs and a version of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boyz II Men, as some people in the pews sang along.
Other speakers briefly touched on the shooting, but chose to keep the service joyful by talking about Anderson’s bubbly personality and the many things she accomplished during her childhood.
Aaron Walter, executive director for Detroit Public Schools Community District, said Anderson started her education in the city, attending Ronald Brown Academy.
“As she’s smiling down on us today, I can only imagine how big that smile is knowing that there’s a die-hard Michigan fan up here wearing this green Spartan tie,” Walter said.
Grosse Pointe Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Roy Bishop said Anderson, who went to middle and high school in Grosse Pointe, embraced the essence of her middle name, Diamond. He said she made an impact during her time in the district, joining student council and the National Honors Society. Anderson was also a mentor, helping freshmen at Grosse Pointe North High School transition to their new school.
“In one of her college recommendation letters, one of her teachers shared the following, ‘As a student, Arielle was top-notch. She was a hard worker, dedicated, talented and driven, as well as compassionate, thoughtful and mature. If we could carbon copy Arielle, the world would be a much better place.’”
Michigan State Board of Trustees Chair Rema Vassar announced Anderson will receive a posthumous honorary degree from the university, which drew loud applause from the audience at Tuesday’s service.
“Her sun is like the diamond that she is,” Vassar said. “You know diamonds are forever and she’ll live forever.”
In addition, Kindle announced that Feb. 21 will be marked as a city day of remembrance for Anderson.
Toward the end of the funeral, Anderson’s aunt Kim Spivey shared memories and spoke of a sunny Tuesday on June 17, 2003, when Anderson’s mother Dawana Davis went into labor six weeks early. Davis did not speak Tuesday during her daughter’s funeral.
Anderson excelled in school and aspired to be a pediatrician. She loved reading and dancing to Ariana Grande and hanging out with her numerous friends. But her best friend was Davis, Spivey said.
“The one relationship that was sacred and the most important relationship to her was with her mom,” she said. “‘When you see me,’ that’s what Ari said, ‘you see my mom.’”
Spivey also said Anderson was a Christian, making Fountain of Truth Christian Center in Detroit her home church.
“So, on Monday, February 13, when God said to Ari, ‘Come on, let’s go home,’ she went without a fight, understanding that her earthly assignment was complete,” she said.