The 4-year-old twin sisters and their 18-month-old cousin killed in a Long Neck house fire on Aug. 7 were to be honored at a memorial service on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 22.
The service for Skylar Marie Marchuk, her twin sister Veronica Ellen Marchuk, both 4, of Millsboro, and cousin Amaya Renee Gentner, 1, of Georgetown, was set for 2 p.m. at Long Neck United Methodist Church at 32051 Long Neck Road in Millsboro.
The interment was to be private.
Skylar and Veronica were born on Feb. 27, 2015, in Newark, Del., daughters of Caila Gentner and Charles Marchuk.
The twins were preceded in death by their paternal grandmother, Ellen Marchuk. They are survived by their parents; a sister, Kora Hitchens; a brother, Bryan Marchuk; maternal grandparents, Richard Gentner Jr. and Brandi Gentner; paternal grandfather, Kevin Marchuk; three aunts, Jozelynn Gentner, Casondra Gentner and Jennyfer Bagnell; and two uncles, Richard Gentner III and John Pizzo.
Amaya was born in Seaford on Jan. 6, 2018, the daughter of Julius Thomas and Casondra Lee Gentner.
She is survived by her parents; maternal grandparents, Richard Gentner Jr. and Brandi Gentner; paternal grandparents, Althea and Jerome Morris; an uncle, Richard Gentner III; three aunts, Caila Gentner, Jozelynn Gentner, and Ivory Thomas, and her daughter, Jasmine Jackson.
Immediately after the fire, which caused $50,000 damage to the house, the community quickly embraced the family, donating money and clothing.
“Even at the Flounder Pounder fishing tournament last week, the winner was leaning on the other people who had won prizes to donate to this family. Thousands of dollars were raised,” the Rev. Bruce Rogers, pastor of Long Neck United Methodist, said.
“It truly is a tragedy. It’s unfathomable. Nobody can understand. Those of us who are people of faith, we are simply called to believe God is with us and to believe that God will always be with us. We know that God will provide for them and for us.
“It’s a tragic loss with three lives. You’re almost numb. The desire, the hope, is, by opening up and having this memorial service on Thursday, we can really start moving on the grief process and start healing,” he said.
Close friend Albert Apicella, who set up a GoFundMe account, joined the Gentner family for dinner over the weekend, compliments of Shorebreak Lodge in Rehoboth Beach.
“It was very nice for the family. Everybody interacted, and I was able to get updates from the family. The family is holding up, even under these circumstances,” Apicella told the Coastal Point this week.
He set the original GoFundMe goal at $5,000, then $10,000. That second amount was surpassed in 20 hours. The target was increased to $20,000 and the amount donated had grown to $19,078 by early this week.
“Money is still coming in. I’m very proud of this community for donating and helping so much. I never expected such an outpouring,” Apicella said.
Shortly after he started the fundraiser, Apicella thanked the community.
“As a first-responder myself, it is amazing to see a community rise to the occasion for a family in need after an unimaginable disaster. Please continue to share and give what you can, as they will continue to recover for many months to come. I organized the fundraiser because they would do the same for me,” he said.
“I was listening when the fire came through, to find out it was my friend. I couldn’t just sit on my hands, so I figured I had to do something. I could set up a GoFundMe page,” he said.
Donations will be used for the family’s personal needs. Another $15,000 was pledged by the Delaware-based Good Ole Boy Foundation, to help pay for the memorial service and interment.
Already condolences, which can be posted online at www.melsonfuneralservices.com, include promises that the children will “always be loved and missed” and that, “When you look to the dark sky at night you will see Amaya’s twinkling eyes among the stars.”
Mourners offered prayer for the family “during this difficult time” and asked for “light, love and strength.”
“This world will forever be sadly different without these … beautiful young hearts,” one couple wrote.
“Your whole family is in my prayers,” another woman assured.
“The sky looks different when you got someone you love up there,” Jozelynn Gentner posted on Facebook.
“We would like to thank everyone for their support for our family. The outpouring of generosity from our friends, family, community, charities and first responders is unimaginable. Please continue to pray for our family while we mourn the loss of three beautiful children. Skylar, Veronica and Amaya, you are loved very much,” she wrote.
Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio said officials continue investigating, to determine the cause of the fire that began around 2:30 p.m. on Scarp Road in the Pot-Nets mobile home community near Millsboro. As the house was burning, one of the children inside, Kora Hitchens, was rescued and rushed the hospital, where she was treated and then released.
The bodies of the other children were discovered inside, in the back of the mobile home, after firefighters extinguished the flames.
Several fire departments responded, including those from Millsboro, Indian River and Lewes.
The bodies were transported to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science, where autopsies were performed.
By Susan Canfora