Shock. Disbelief. Sadness.

Our entire community is grieving over what happened in our beautiful town yesterday. For most of us, we still cannot come to grips with the reality that something like this happened in Mount Airy. It seems surreal.

We lost two beautiful people yesterdayin a terrible tragedy. Noah Homayouni and Heather Zujkowski. I did not know Noah, but from what I was able to read about him, he was a wonderful young man. I did however, know Heather and her three beautiful children, and wanted to share a little about her.

To know Heather, was to love her. There was so much to love about her. Heather attended church at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Damascus, which is the same church Tracy and I worship at. As I learned about her in church, it took very little time for me to discover that Heather loved Jesus and she loved our church family. As I learned more about Heather last year, and talked with her more, I wanted to get to know her even more each time.

I first connected with Heather when I learned that we both had a common connection as military veterans. But as I got to know her more, what I found most beautiful about her was in the way she loved people, especially in the way she selflessly and sacrificially loved her three beautiful children, Noah, Isaac and Shayla. Heather was a person whom I could best describe as being very others-centered. She always put others before herself. She loved unselfishly and frequently, and even when she was not feeling as happy as she would like, she still wanted to put a smile on the faces of everyone she came into contact with.

A few months ago, Heather asked me to do a photo session of her and her family at her home. I was so grateful for the opportunity and gladly accepted. I always believed that good photography always brought out a little bit about the personalities of the people being photographed. When I photographed her family, my goal was to show the love and happiness they all share as a family, and to show how much Heather loved her children. I wanted to share a few images from the shoot we did last December, with the hopes that everyone can see from the photos, just how special and wonderful a person she was.

Even if Heather was someone you did not know, we can all, as a Mount Airy Community, continue to keep her legacy alive. We can do that just simply by exercising kindness, selflessness, and a genuine love towards one another. This was how Heather lived her life and it would do her so much honor, if we all exercised the same attributes towards one another, the way that she did.

I am so grateful that God has allowed my life journey to connect with such a beautiful human being. Through the tears, I will never forget Heather and what she has taught me. Love, really does matter over everything, and Heather was a living testimony to that truth.

Please keep Heather’s family and children in your prayers.

13 replies
  1. Brenda Bartel
    Brenda Bartel says:

    There are no words. I was thankful to help care for the kids when she attended classes this spring. Loved sitting beside her in church. She had such a loving quite spirit and it was peaceful Loved her.

    Reply
    • John Dukes
      John Dukes says:

      Thank you so much for our comment, Brenda. You are right, No words can describe this. Thank you so much for loving her and her children. She will be so missed.

      Reply
  2. Lisa Cipperly
    Lisa Cipperly says:

    Your photos captured the true spirit of Heather. She loved life, she loved those kids to infinity and beyond.
    I will miss her some much

    Reply
  3. Kathryn Cipperly
    Kathryn Cipperly says:

    I’m Shayla’s Step-mother. Her and I had a wonderful relationship and I truly considered her both a friend and family. I’m heartbroken to say the least. These are beautiful photos, I’d really like to get printable copies if possible for Shayla to have.

    Reply
  4. Anita Arrao
    Anita Arrao says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. My heart goes out to the family & children. I am married now to a veteran and its good. My previous relationship was terrible & a protective order is only a piece of paper. I’ll keep everyone in my prayers.

    Reply
  5. Matesha O.
    Matesha O. says:

    Thank you for these. I got the news leaving work a couple of hours ago and all I have been able to do is curl up in my bed with my head and heart ready to explode and write the poem that I posted on her Facebook Page. But seeing that others cared as much for her as we did, and understood how much she loved- really helps.

    Reply
  6. Michelle Farinelli
    Michelle Farinelli says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and for your beautiful pictures. May Heather’s light continue to shine in us all.

    Reply
  7. Melanie Cummings
    Melanie Cummings says:

    Beautiful pics of this beautiful family whose lives will never be the same. Thank you for sharing John. May God comfort the children and their families and friends during this sad and difficult time. ❤🙏

    Reply
  8. Bob Hosier
    Bob Hosier says:

    John,
    Thank you for the gift of these photos to those of us who knew and loved Heather and her children. She was such a faithful follower of Jesus and I am sure He is weeping with us who grieve at this time.

    Reply
  9. John Dukes
    John Dukes says:

    Thank you so much, everyone. Heather was an extraordinary person. She had many challenges she faced, but faced them with courage and a heart of love for God and for people. She will be deeply missed.

    If you would like to donate to the family, please visit http://www.redeemer.us. Click on the giving tab, and put in the words “Heather’s memorial” in the memo line.

    Thank you all for the love and support!

    Reply

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