Boone County family honors the lives of the five children lost in house fire

Five of the Tatman’s kids may be gone, but as dozens of community members shared, their memories and legacy will live on.
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 10:22 PM CDT
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BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) - A day of mourning at New Beginnings Fellowship Church in Belvidere as friends and loved ones share fond memories of the five brothers and sisters from the same family lost in the garden prairie fire on March 7.

“The turnout was quite heartfelt. The family has tried to embrace the children and their friends and their neighbors, co-workers from various jobs that were held, organizations that have shown up to support the family,” says Leona Brotko Tatman, the grandmother of the children lost in the fire.

Many of those who attended the memorial say this isn’t the end, but instead, as the name of the church says, a time of new beginnings.

“You don’t want to mourn, you want to be able to remember the good times and the fun times,” says Leona.

Emmanuel, Elizabeth, Danika, Zofia and Aniela may be gone, but as dozens of community members shared, their memories and legacy will live on.

“These kids get very anxious to speak in front of a crowd. But yet they had no problem coming up here fear aside, expressing their love and appreciation for the family,” says Assistant Pastor Mike Ollnau.

Several people brought up the great times they had at the holiday parties hosted by the Tatman’s. One of the family favorites, the 4th of July.

“Sparklers and firecrackers and you heard many things about roaming candles. You still need adult supervision but they had wonderful times and they invited all the children’s friends to participate,” says Leona.

From the owners at Tom and Jerry’s to Saturday’s celebration of life for Emmanuel, Elizabeth, Danika, Zofia and Aniela, the family is thankful for all the community has done to provide some closure.

“The whole community, the kids coming together showing their love and support. As I said earlier just the love and support over anxiety and fear of being in front of people, that to me is love.”

“We want to ask the children’s friend to still stop by. Say hello. The animals are still there. They can share more memories with the animals and the children that have left us and keep their memories alive,” says Ollnau

More than 1,100 donors raised almost $72,000 for the Tatman family through the GoFundMe organized by the children’s grandmother.

Leona says Jennifer is recovering under medical treatment, Raymond got a clean bill of health and baby Katalyna, the daughter of Elizabeth, is flourishing.

The family plans to stay on the garden prairie farm. However, they might rebuild at a slower pace since they don’t have homeowner’s insurance.

The family says they want to plan a private burial for the five children to be buried with their grandfather.

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