ST. LOUIS – Jeanette Culpepper, a champion for families of crime victims and credited with helping St. Louisans understand the real effects of violence, died Monday. She was 73.
Culpepper’s granddaughter, Asia Johnson, said she was recently diagnosed with lymphoma and was battling an infection.
“Her legacy will go on,” Johnson said.
Culpepper started the group Families Advocating Safe Streets soon after her son, Curtis Johnson, was murdered in 1991. She is also credited for starting an annual candlelight vigil on New Year’s Eve. The vigil honors each victim of violence killed that year and gives families of victims an opportunity to be heard.
“She was very passionate about the victims and their families,” said Lt. Col. Rochelle D. Jones, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. She recalls seeing grief on faces of families who attended. Jones also recalls seeing something else.
“There was also a look of, well somebody cares,” she said.
Jones and Culpepper became friends. Jones said Culpepper would speak out if she had a complaint about police but would also speak out when police deserved credit.
“I just really appreciated her candor,” Jones said.
James Clark, the vice president of public safety for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, had become a friend of Culpepper’s over the years.
“She made sure St. Louis was sensitized to the plight of the victims,” Clark said.
Clark added that no one was more passionate about making sure the St. Louis community understood what families of violent crime victims experience.
“We have to continue the vigil every year in honor of Jeanette Culpepper,” he said.
Johnson said she will make sure the annual vigil continues. She described Culpepper as the strongest woman she knew.
“I won’t let her name go in vain,” Johnson said. “She won’t be forgotten.”
A balloon release to honor Culpepper is planned for Saturday, Oct. 23. The release will take place at 5807 Page Blvd. at 3 p.m.
Her visitation and funeral will take place at the same church where her annual candlelight vigil is held, Williams Temple Church of God in Christ. Visitation is Sunday, Oct. 31 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Her funeral service will begin at 5 p.m.