If there was one gift Josh and Vanessa Ellis wanted to give, it was love.
As youth pastors, the Bonney Lake couple taught it to their students. It showed in Josh’s guitar playing. It was heard in Vanessa’s boisterous laugh.
And they rained it upon their 8-month-old son, Hudson, whom loved ones described as cuter than a Gerber baby.
It’s that love that Eastpointe Foursquare Church and the community are clinging to after the young family was killed Monday while driving to Home Depot.
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A chunk of concrete barrier fell from the state Route 410 overpass where crews were expanding a sidewalk and landed on the cab of the Ellises’ pickup as it emerged from beneath the span on Angeline Road East.
James Ludlow, pastor at the church, said that after heard about the accident, he so feared the Ellises were involved that he went to their home and peeked under the garage door, looking for their pickup
It wasn’t there.
Then two chaplains called to break the news.
“They were the type of people everybody loves and gravitates toward,” Ludlow said. “We call them pillar people. And now the pillar has been taken from us.”
Hundreds showed up at the church Tuesday night to hold a vigil for the family and to worship following the tragedy.
Worship pastors Kayla and Shane Lance, both 26, were close with the Ellis family. Vanessa was 29. Josh was 25.
They said the Ellises’ sense of humor was part of what helped them connect with the roughly 75 junior high and high school students they worked with.
“They were crazy,” Shane Lance said. “Very funny. Ridiculously funny all the time.”
They were people who would make eyes at friends when someone accidentally said something funny during church, or send a funny text message.
Loved ones said Hudson would turn to his dad whenever he heard him speak, and seemed to like people with beards, like Josh’s.
“The baby was everyone’s favorite,” Kayla Lance said. “They couldn’t wait to be parents.”
Hudson loved being around people and would fuss when he got home from church and didn’t have all his admirers around. That made perfect sense, the Lances said, because his parents loved being around people, too.
Josh sent the Lances a text less than an hour before the accident, to say that Hudson had started pulling himself up on the furniture.
“It’s scaring the HELL out of me,” Shane said Josh wrote.
Hudson had his mom’s booming, infectious laugh, loved ones said.
“They literally always had a smile, especially Vanessa,” 19-year-old youth leader Cormac Carroll said of the family.
Ludlow said church members are not blaming anyone for the accident and that he has reached out to the construction workers in hopes of helping them grieve.
“This couple was huge in love,” Ludlow said. “Our job right now is to do what they did best, and that is to love well. We’re believing that their legacy will live on and we’ll continue to see that love increases.”
Mayor Neil Johnson expressed his condolences to those involved in the accident and those who knew the Ellises.
“To see such promising lives cut short — a father, mother and young son — lives serving and loving the youth of our community, gives us deep sorrow,” he said.