Mourners stood united Sunday as they remembered and honored Elise Malary, a 31-year-old transgender activist who was considered a pillar of Evanston's LGBTQ community.
Malary's body was found in Lake Michigan Thursday, six days after she was reported missing by a family member.
Friends, neighbors and strangers all joined together at Sunday evening's vigil in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood as they lit candles to honor Malary's life.
"Elise, thank you for being my sister, my comrade, and I’m going to miss you," one mourner said.
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Those who knew Malary said she dedicated her life to advocating for Black transgender women and the LGBTQ community.
The beloved activist worked for different groups as she fought for equality and inclusion. She was also previously employed in the civil rights bureau at Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul's office.
Friends described Malary as a soft-spoken person with a big heart.
"She chose giving people the benefit of the doubt, she looked for the good in them," one vigil attendee said. "She chose compassion, and she chose time and time again to lift others up."
Parker Haynes, who serves on the Chicago Therapy Collective board with Malary, said she left a void that can't be filled.
"I just learned a lot about how to live and fight, and Elise had a really beautiful way of wording things," he said.
Haynes said he hopes he could talk to Malary one last time to comfort her.
"Say thank you, we love you, thank you all over and over again," he said.
The Chicago Therapy Collective is accepting donations to benefit Malary's family. Malary's manner and cause of death remain under investigation by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.