A woman suddenly thrust into the role of raising her five orphaned grandchildren after their mother’s murder received an outpouring of gifts Wednesday from friends and family.
Cereal, canned goods, animal crackers, baby items, clothes, diapers — all of it poured in, along with money, hugs and condolence cards for Lillie Verser, who sat in a chair amid nearly 100 well-wishers and mourners outside Washington High School in Kansas City, Kansas.
Twelve years ago, her daughter, Adoria Verser, graduated from Washington with dreams of being a model or actress.
Instead, she had grown into a doting mother who worked overtime at a bank’s call center to help provide for her children, ages 9, 7, 4, 3 and 1. She loved reading them Dr. Seuss books, helping with their homework and taking them to the zoo and water parks.
Adoria Verser died Wednesday at age 29 after being removed from life support at a local hospital. Her family donated her organs.
Her boyfriend shot her multiple times Monday morning in front of numerous witnesses, including two of her children, in a church parking lot near 51st Street and Leavenworth Road. Then he fatally shot himself.
Police on Wednesday identified him as 27-year-old Shefrin T. Smith. He was the father of Verser’s four youngest children, friends said.
“Her kids meant the world to her,” said Reba Cole, who graduated from Washington High with Verser in 2002 and rallied with other friends to help remaining family members raise the children.
“With five children, the youngest still in diapers, the family has a lot of needs,” Cole said.
The kids’ grandmother, Lillie Verser, pledged Wednesday to keep them together and teach them the same values she had taught her daughter, including to help strangers, particularly single mothers.
If Adoria Verser saw a young mother walking with children, she would give them a ride home, Lillie Verser said. She just needed to do that. Adoria Verser also gave her children’s old clothes to those in need, her mother said.
“I am going to make sure they learn everything I taught her,” Lillie Verser said. “When you have stuff, you give stuff. If someone needs something, you give it to them. That was how Adoria was raised, and that is what she was.”
On Wednesday, dozens of others became the givers. Some dropped cash donations into a large box decorated with wrapping paper and photos of Adoria Verser and her children, dubbed “Adoria’s Fab 5.”
After the vigil, many lingered in the high school parking lot to reminisce and share stories about Adoria Verser. Meanwhile, Lillie Verser asked them to not just mourn but to celebrate the life of a woman who loved to laugh and watch Kansas basketball.
If the Jayhawks lost, Adoria would become so upset that she would miss work the following day, her mother said.
A longtime friend, Toni Thompson, said Verser’s life revolved around her children.
“She always put them first,” Thompson said.
Adoria’s brother, Albert Fitts, recalled a Facebook message from May 2012 that summed up her feelings.
“I am a parent dear Lord,” it began. “I ask for nothing from you for me. I only pray that in your mercy, you would grant my children their needs. May their lives be long and healthy, may they achieve all their dreams, may they always live in a world that is free, may they be who they were born to be. And may they know to their last days that they are deeply loved by me. Amen.”
Adoria Verser also was known for her upbeat and fun-loving nature, friends said.
“She could always make you smile,” Cole said. “She was completely silly and completely fun.”
Thompson described Verser as a “workaholic” with a peaceful nature.
“She never had a problem speaking her mind,” Thompson said.
Cole said she doesn’t know what happened to lead to Monday’s violent outburst.
“It’s hard to wrap your brain around,” she said. “From the outside looking in, everything seemed fine.”
A fund has been set up online for those wishing to help atwww.gofundme.com/8qq4g4
Kansas City, Kansas, police issued a statement Wednesday encouraging people living in abusive relationships to seek help. Residents can call the Police Department’s victim services unit at913-573-5616
Other resources for help with domestic violence issues include the National Domestic Violence Hotline at800-799-7233 and the Kansas City Metro Domestic Violence Hotline at 816-452-8535.