Mourners console one another as they gather at the visitation and funeral for Cody Carter, one of four killed Monday in the Wilmington car crash, at R.W. Patterson Funeral Home in Braidwood, Illinois, Saturday, March 16, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 18, 2013 7:06AM
At his wake, Cody Carter was remembered for his laughter.
The youth known for his ability to make people happy was not able to make a joke to cheer up anyone Saturday. But some were able to smile just thinking about him.
Carter, 15, was one of four teenagers who died in a tragic accident when their car ran off a road into Forked Creek in Wesley Township on Monday.
Anthony Eartly seemed to be between tears and a smile outside the R.W. Patterson Funeral Home as he talked about his close friend.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was so depressed, and I talked with him, and I was laughing two minutes later,” Eartly said.
Carter was optimistic “even in the worst situations,” his friend said.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in Wilmington who could say he was a bad guy,” Eartly said. “He had a good attitude. He was always the optimist.”
The line of friends, family and fellow Wilmington High School students stretched outside the funeral home as so many came to pay their last respects and support Carter’s family.
Many couldn’t help but cry.
The loss of four people so early in their lives and so suddenly has saddened the school and the community.
“Everyone’s just staying together — just one big family,” said Richard Elliott, a friend and classmate of Carter’s at Wilmington High School.
“I’ll miss the dude,” Elliott said. “He was a funny guy. He made a joke out of everything. He cheered people up.”
Chianne Riggs remembered Carter’s ready response if anyone called him stupid: “You can’t have stupid without ‘U’ and ‘I.’ ”
But Carter was not just a jokester.
He played guitar, Eartly said. And the two of them would create songs together.
“He wrote either slow, meaningful songs or real hard-core, fast music,” Eartly said.
Carter’s Cub Scout medals were on display at his wake.
Cory Hall said he has thought a lot this week about his times in the Cub Scouts with Carter.
“One thing I’ll always remember is what his dad and him did for me and the other kids,” Hall said, recalling the help they gave on Cub Scout projects.
Asked how students are dealing with the death of their classmates, Hall said, “It’s been very hard.”
The accident also took the lives of Micalah Sembach, 15, Cheyenne Fender, 17, and Matthew Bailey, 14.
Bailey’s wake was Thursday. Services for Fender also were held Saturday with no media allowed on the funeral home property. Visitation for Sembach will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Freitag-Reeves Funeral Home in Wilmington.
Jamie Hooper of Wilmington drove Carter and Bailey along with her son to Orland Square Mall on a shopping trip the weekend before the accident.
“We were laughing and singing and having a good time,” she said.
For many, it will be hard imagining Carter not laughing anymore and making people happy.
“He loved making people laugh. That was probably his favorite thing to do,” said Jake Casillas, whose school locker was next to Carter’s. “If he was here, he probably wouldn’t want all these people crying. He’d want them to laugh.”
Casillas, though, appeared to choke up a bit as he talked.
“Now that he’s gone,” Casillas said, “it’s kind of weird not having him around.”
But if some of Carter’s friends and family find themselves laughing at times for no reason at all, one of the messages written to Cody on a poster at the wake may provide the explanation. It read: “I hope you have a great afterlife.”