WAUWATOSA -- Family members of a Milwaukee woman stabbed to death in 2018 gathered Monday, July 29 to remember her on what would have been her 54th birthday.
A balloon and dove release ceremony was held for Debra Luckett, described as the life of the party. The guest of honor was present in the minds and hearts of her guests.
"Thank you God for Debra, and for giving us Debra," said a guest.
"It's kind of hard not having her here in the physical, but I know she's here in spirit," said Cordell Luckett, Debra's son.
Debra Luckett's sister said life without her hasn't been easy.
"Her favorite food was BBQ, soda, potato chips," said Lisa Luckett. "That was her favorite, and cake! It's hard, a tragedy, someone killing your loved ones. I can't explain the feeling. It hurts so bad."
Police said Debra Luckett's body was discovered inside her home on May 16, 2018. Prosecutor said Jimmy Bates, 60, Luckett's longtime boyfriend, stabbed her to death following an argument. Bates, who lived at the house and had been dating Luckett for years, was nowhere to be found. It wouldn't be until Aug. 26, 2018 that officers arrested him while on the street, panhandling. In February 2019, Bates was sentenced to serve 28 years in prison and 12 years' extended supervision.
"I miss her," said Lisa Luckett. "I can't bring her back. I want to keep her memory alive."
In an effort to do that, the idea for the birthday celebration worthy of Debra Luckett's vivacious personality came to mind.
"She would've been partying, celebrating, talking loud, being mama," said Cordell Luckett.
Debra Luckett is survived by her three children.
"She loved to enjoy herself, listening to music, spending time with her family," said Alexis Trotter, Debra Luckett's daughter.
In her memory, the family decided to take part in a balloon and dove release. It was a bittersweet gathering for a woman who's gone, but lives on.
FOX6 News was told the doves were trained to circle back to their homes near the airport.
The family encouraged others who have experienced loss to do some sort of yearly celebration of a loved one who has passed away. They said it's helped them in their healing process.