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Rutina Wesley, Viola Davis, and the Obamas Honored the Life of Nelsan Ellis at Chicago Funeral by Noblex: 5:25 am On Jul 24, 2017
Viola Davis, Anna Paquin and Rutina Wesley were among the celebrities who trekked to the far south Chicago suburb of Harvey on Saturday, to celebrate the life and legacy of fellow actor Nelsan Ellis, who died July 8.
It was a decidedly spirit-filled service at the decidedly C.O.G.I.C. church that Ellis grew up in, where family members and pastoral staff knew him as Leon. With gut-wrenching praise and worship offered by VaShawn Mitchell, Caleb Minter and Tiff Joy, the 200 or so attendees were treated to an uplifting sermon that ended with the pastor of the Holy Temple Church of God in Christ reminding all of the power of intercessory prayer and mindfulness. Resolutions from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth were announced, as were words sent from Barack and Michelle Obama.
Said the Obamas: “Nelsan will live on through the beauty of the art he created.”
Viola Davis and husband Julius Tennon got up to pay tribute as well,
“He was like my baby,” said Davis, who joked that whenever he came around, she “fed him.” Adding, “When I saw he was sick, I begged him to get better.”
Ellis died due to alcohol withdrawal, according to his father. He is survived by his son Breon, who sat next to Wesley and Davis during the service and by a host of family. Ellis spent most of his childhood in the Chicago area —with some time in Alabama— before going to Juilliard in New York City.
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