Hundreds attend funeral of Tanya and Danielle Lawrence

A pair of hearses lead a lenghty funeral procession into Washington Memorial Park in Coram. (Credit: Grant Parpan)
A pair of hearses lead a lenghty funeral procession into Washington Memorial Park in Coram. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Tanya Lawrence was described as a giving person at her funeral Saturday, someone who cared for even the most distant of strangers.

Her daughter, Danielle, whose body filled the casket alongside hers, was said to be a shy teenager who brightened up while performing on a stage.

Hundreds crowded First Baptist Church for the joint funeral, saying goodbye to the mother and daughter, as a community begins to heal from the tragic shooting at the family’s home in Wading River last Sunday. 

“What an unusual situation,” the Rev. Charles Coverdale said as he opened his 30-minute eulogy of both mother and daughter. “Tragic in its roots. Hurtful and painful to our hearts.”

The 43-year-old mother and her 17-year-old daughter were shot dead by Ms. Lawrence’s boyfriend, 44-year-old Thomas Calhoun, who then turned the gun on himself. Danielle was most likely shot coming to the aide of her injured mother, investigators said.

Among those in attendance at Saturday’s funeral were Ms. Lawrence’s son, Jamal Pines, 21; her daughter, Brandy Lawrence, 14; and Danielle’s father, Tony, a teacher and former lacrosse coach in the Riverhead School District. More than $27,000 has been raised from the community to help cover the cost of the funeral by Mr. Lawrence’s former lacrosse players.

The mother and daughter were later interred at Washington Memorial Park in Coram.

Both Rev. Coverdale and Rev. Isidore Galante of  Life In The Spirit Christian Fellowship in Wading River — the Lawrence family’s church — spoke of the need for surviving family members to heal through faith.

“Words have to escape us at this point,” Rev. Galante said, addressing the approximately 400 mourners in attendance for the nearly two-hour funeral service. “What do we say? What do we do? What’s the next step? Where do we go? If we don’t go to the word of God, there is no comfort for us.”

“No matter how tragic things end up down here, God has a place for each and every one of us,” Rev. Coverdale later said. “I really want Jamal and Brandy to know that losing a mother and a sister, you are still guaranteed a place of restoration with them. And therefore you are to keep your faith strong and in God.”

Rev. Coverdale said he met the Lawrence family when they first moved to Riverhead to make a new life for themselves. He said he saw Ms. Lawrence, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in a different light recently as she struggled with Bell’s palsy.

“She worried about her family through this disease,” he said during the eulogy. “Yet I met her many other times with a smile on her face and joy bells ringing in her heart. There was something about this disease that she was not gonna let it stop her as long as she lived.”

Rev. Coverdale said he only knew Danielle from a distance, but was grateful to have witnessed the aspiring singer and violinist’s contributions to the Riverhead theatrical community.

“They say she was shy and not very forthcoming, but someone mentioned, and it was the truth, once she got to the stage she blossomed and she bloomed,” he said.

“There’s no doubt she could join the celestial orchestra.”

Danielle, a sophomore at Riverhead High School, had played in the orchestra for four years, according to the obituary read aloud by church clerk Linda Bullock. She also performed in the Blue Masques theater group, ran track and played lacrosse.

“She had a beautiful voice that was pure and sweet,” Ms. Bullock said. “She dreamed of sharing her music with the world.”

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