After Thursday's announcement about Michelle Obama's attendance, family members said they appreciated her interest.
While the Secret Service travels with the first lady and special security will have to be put in place, her visit would not be as disruptive to the funeral as the president's would. In 2010 she attended the funeral of Bishop Arthur Brazier, a Woodlawn community activist and a longtime friend of the Obamas, and was barely noticeable in the 3,500-seat sanctuary. The first lady did not speak at the service, but Jarrett made comments on behalf of the president.
The first lady also attended a memorial service for Jarrett's father, James Bowman, in 2010 at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. She did not stay for a reception and another remembrance event later in the day.
Maxwell said the president has reached out to Hadiya's parents by phone. Now it's the first lady's turn to offer condolences.
"As a mother and Chicagoan, the first lady was heartbroken to learn of the tragic loss of Hadiya Pendleton due to senseless gun violence," said Kristina Schake, the first lady's communications director. "Too many times, we've seen young people struck down with so much of their lives ahead of them."
Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, said two messages could be drawn from Michelle Obama's funeral trip.
"One, this is an opportunity," McBride said. "A first lady is often called on to be a comforter in chief, as we saw with Laura Bush after 9/11. This is a role that comes naturally to her as a woman, as a mother, to comfort someone, just as the president has to do."
Second, she said, first ladies often choose causes to draw attention to and support a president's initiatives.
"Gun control is something the president says he is putting every fiber of his being into as long as he has the bully pulpit," said McBride, now executive in residence at American University's School of Public Affairs.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Greater Harvest Baptist Church, 5141 S. State St., which has a capacity of 1,000 people in the main sanctuary, according to the pastor, the Rev. Eric Thomas. He said an overflow room in another part of the church would accommodate about 200 more.
Thomas said he was asked by Maxwell to host the funeral because of the large crowd expected.
"This is something we've never experienced," Thomas said. "There will be a lot of street blockages and our parking lot will have limited access. Certain parts of the church will be curtained off for security reasons and they've requested that we have a special place for the first lady in the church."
Maxwell said he has known the Pendletons for more than seven years. In his eulogy, he said, he will make sure that people know about Hadiya's "great spirit and how her mom and dad cultivated such an awesome spirit."
Several of Hadiya's friends from school, including fellow members of the majorette team at King College Prep, will speak at the funeral, Maxwell said. He said there will be a performance by the church's dance ministry, a group of praise dancers that Hadiya belonged to. She also will be recognized for her work in the church nursery.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church and an anti-violence activist on the South Side, said the first lady's visit will not silence calls for the president to make a public policy statement on violence in Chicago. The larger issue, he said, is the more than 100 children who have died since the start of last year.
"Hopefully, this will become the face of the larger issue and not just the face of one funeral," Pfleger said.
Family members also said they are glad to see that Hadiya is making a difference in the world.
"Hadiya always said she was going to be a star," said Wilks. "She's a star now and she's reaching the globe."
On Friday, visitation is scheduled for 2 to 9 p.m. in Calahan Funeral Home at 7030 S. Halsted St. On Saturday, the wake continues at 9 a.m., followed by the funeral at 11 a.m.
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