Elevator Murder Victim Delores Gillespie’s Family Gets Hugs, Love and Financial Help from Community

Fund raises $4,800 in small donations for kin of Prospect Heights woman set on fire in Underhill Avenue apartment building.

People from Brooklyn to Liverpool have rallied around the family of murder victim Delores Gillespie, showing their support with donations, words of support and a whole lot of love.

The 73-year-old grandmother was . Her former handyman, Jerome Isaac, whom she fired 18 months earlier, is .

During the family’s stay in New York, they were showered with kindness from strangers who had heard of the attack. 

From the funeral home that let the family use their limousine for days on end, to the dozens of people who approached them on the street to offer hugs and words of support, to the ministers and psychologists who offered free therapy sessions, to Councilwoman Letitia James, who helped the family cut-through a bureaucratic glitch in identifying the body, people did all they could to help.

“The kindness chokes me up to think about it,” said Sheila Gillespie-Hillman, Gillespie’s daughter, who came to the funeral from her home in Gary, Ind.

The family had estimated they would need about $20,000 to cover costs of cleaning out Gillespie’s cluttered apartment and travel, hotel and funeral expenses.

So far about $4,800 has been collected, in checks ranging from $10 to $1,000, said a spokeswoman for Councilwoman Letitia James, who set up the fund.  

Local businesses and organizations have donated as well, including the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, , Brown Memorial Baptist Church and (if you know of others, let us know in the comments).

The so far hasn’t come through, but an insurance policy is expected to cover the funeral costs, said Gillespie’s niece, Tracy Robinson. The hedge-fund manager did not return messages seeking comment.

But whether it was the $10 check given to them by an elderly woman at the funeral, or the random embrace on the street, it is the individual gestures of support the family cherishes most.

“A lot of hugs, a lot of tears, from people I didn’t know,” said Gillespie-Hillsman.

After the rest of the family had flown home fellow guests at the Sheraton—a lady from Iowa and a couple from Liverpool—met up with Gillespie-Hillsman every day to keep her spirits up. “They really kept me going,” she said.

And when Gillespie-Hillsman visited her mother’s workplace, she was told tales of her generosity, such as the time she bought a birthday cake for a co-worker who couldn’t afford to buy one for her daughter, or the bed she acquired for another woman who needed it for her child. 

“So many people gave me stories of her kindness there,” Gillespie-Hillsman said.

Robinson called the experience a "wall of love."

“All that love—from strangers. They don’t know us. Nobody has to care, and it’s just beautiful that they did,” she said. 


To contribute to the fund set up for Deloris Gillespie’s family send funds to Rehabilitation Fund for Disaster Victims, Carver Federal Savings Bank, 4 Hanson Place. Account # is 801281750  or call 718-230-2900.

Editor's Note, Jan. 25, 11:27 p.m.: This story had incorrectly stated some details about Gillespie-Hillsman's visit to the post office and has been corrected.


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