Wednesday, February 13, 2013
ENGLEWOOD – Funeral services Tuesday for a mother and daughter allegedly murdered by the woman’s boyfriend served as a clarion call to escape abusive relationships and to put a halt to domestic violence.
“This tragedy has happened to wake us up,” said the Rev. Lester W. Taylor Jr., pastor of Community Baptist Church, where more than 800 mourners came to pay respects to Tam Marie “Tammy” Pitts-Gaddy, 40, and 5-year-old Natasia “Tay Tay” Gaddy.
Pitts-Gaddy was stabbed to death last week by her boyfriend of three years, according to authorities, who said he then used a plastic bag to suffocate the little girl because she saw him argue with and kill her mother. The suspect, Michael C. Brady, a 34-year-old custodian from Teaneck, was charged with two counts of murder and is being held on $2 million bail.
Addressing the mourners, Taylor said prayer will not stop the domestic violence that has been rampant in the African-American community for years. He urged women not to settle for a relationship that puts them in harm’s way because they think they can’t do better.
“That is not God’s design or will for your life,” he said.
He then turned his message to men, calling domestic violence “evil” and telling men “your religion is in vain, it means nothing” if they abuse their wives or partners.
“We’re not strong men because we can raise our fists,” he said. “To assault a child is another level of evil.”
Pitts-Gaddy’s and her daughter’s bodies were found in their apartment at 276 W. Palisade Ave. on Jan. 29 by relatives who had questioned Brady about their whereabouts when they had been unable to get in touch with them. Brady who is accused of killing them on Jan. 28, broke into the apartment at the relatives’ urging and feigned surprise at finding them dead, authorities have said.
Taylor announced the creation of a domestic violence prevention campaign through Crowned with Glory International Ministries in Englewood, where Pitts-Gaddy’s sister, Angele Frazier-Tanner, is a pastor and where Pitts-Gaddy served as a youth leader, choir director and outreach minister.
The campaign, called the T&T Initiative – for Tammy and Tay Tay – aims to provide shelter for abused women and children in the Englewood area. Ushers at the service passed out envelopes for mourners to use to send contributions.
Elaine Meyerson, executive director of Shelter our Sisters, the largest domestic violence service agency in Bergen County, said Englewood has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the county, with 261 cases of domestic violence reported to police in 2010, the most recent year statistics are available.
“We would be thrilled to work with them,” Meyerson said. “The more people who recognize and work toward ending domestic violence will make this a better county and a better world.”
At the service, Frazier-Tanner implored victims of domestic violence to seek help before it is too late.
“Words cannot express the pain we’re feeling right now,” she said. “I am sounding an alarm through the deaths of these two – GET OUT!”
Her words filled the overflowing church where clergy from all over the region joined the community to support Pitts-Gaddy’s family. The service drew local officials, including Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle, his wife, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle, and police Chief Arthur O’Keefe.
Some mourners were overcome with grief upon seeing mother and daughter in matching white coffins. Pamela Taylor of Englewood remembered Pitts-Gaddy “coming in and out of my house” as a young girl who befriended her daughters. She described the “hurt and horror” she felt when learning how she and her daughter died.
“I knew her from Head Start all the way through Dwight Morrow” high school, she said. “Her and her baby were of this community. It’s like a family. It’s like a village. We love each other.”
Andrea Pitts, Tammy’s sister-in-law, told the crowd how Natasia, who was in kindergarten at D.A. Quarles Early Childhood Center, loved to color, sing and dress up her dolls. Pitts-Gaddy, the youngest of four siblings, worked for the John Lucky Bus Company in Hackensack.
“Tam had a spirit that drew people to her,” Pitts said. “She was well known as a fun, outgoing, energetic neighborhood auntie who everyone loved and could count on.”
While the wake was mournful, the three-hour funeral service was often a rousing celebration of life, with hundreds of people dancing and clapping, raising their hands and voices to stirring up-tempo music.
“This is a time to galvanize,” said the Rev. Michael McDuffie of Mighty Sons of God Fellowship Church in Paterson. “There is strength in numbers.”
Burial in Maple Grove Cemetery in Hackensack followed the service.