An emotional goodbye for Jett Travolta
Famous names among mourners as well-wishers gather at gate
John Travolta and Kelly Preston both kissed a large photograph of their son Jett at the close of an emotional memorial service for the 16-year-old Thursday.
A source present gave a detailed account of the 10-minute ceremony held in a tent outside the Travolta home in Jumbolair Aviation Estates.
Among the 100 people in attendance, the source said, were the following celebrities: Lisa Marie Presley; country music singers Garth Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood; Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker; "Sopranos" lead James Gandolfini; "Cheers" star Kirstie Allie; and baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
The only person who spoke at the service was a female minister of the Church of Scientology, the source said. The guests came into the tent for the service and after they were seated, Travolta, Preston and their 8-year-old daughter, Ella Bleu, arrived.
After the service ended, both parents kissed the photo of Jett displayed behind the podium. He died over the New Year's holiday after suffering a seizure while on vacation in the Bahamas, according to reports from officials there. His body was cremated.
The gates in front of Jumbolair were tightly guarded by Travolta's security people and Marion County Sheriff's Office personnel. No media access was allowed and the Travoltas' press representatives issued no statements. But Whitaker, a close friend of the family, did issue one along with his wife, Keisha:
"Our families have had a long loving friendship, and John and Kelly are amazing parents. We have watched each other's children grow and cannot imagine the loss of Jett. He was a bright and beautiful young man, and we are honored to have known him."
The service inside Jumbolair was private, but outside the gates a kind of public wake took place, featuring about three dozen members of the media along with onlookers, passing cars and neighbors of the Travoltas.
They were swapping stories and memories of John Travolta, and trying to get information about the memorial.
That went on most of the day and past the reported 4 p.m. start of the service. Cars drove up to the front gate of Jumbolair in the hours leading up to the service, and planes could also be seen landing at the subdivision's airstrip.
Drivers were directed inside by security personnel wearing black suits. Also, a steady stream of people bearing gifts and sympathy cards kept coming to the gate to give them to security officers, who reportedly delivered them to the Travolta home periodically throughout the day.
The crowd of bystanders included a Creek Indian who played a drum and chanted a song, a 13-year old boy who drove up from the Tampa area with his mother to leave flowers, and a man who said he once met Travolta in a convenience store on Halloween.
Gabriel Berryhill, 27, of Ocala, began playing a drum and singing an American Indian chant soon after the service was scheduled to start. He kept it up for about five minutes.
"I'm here in support of Jett," said Berryhill, of the Muskogee Creek nation. "Something told me to come here to support him and his family. This is a spiritual thing. When we sing our songs, it doesn't come from us, it comes from the creator - a higher power."
Bobby Weiand, the 13-year-old, showed up and crossed Jacksonville Road to present flowers to a security guard.
"It's important to be here," said Bobby, who added he made about a two-hour drive with his mother from the Tampa area. "It hurts for a family to lose a son who is so young and I know how my family would feel if I died. It's sad."
Emanuel Breadon recalled how he met Travolta one Halloween night, buying candy at a local store.
"John had his son with him," Breadon said. "I put my arm on his shoulder and said, 'Are you John Travolta?' He said, 'Yes I am, and it's nice to meet you.'
"My mother was sick and I asked him to call her. He did."
Rhonda Dill, Breadon's mother, said Travolta did indeed give her a call.
"I couldn't believe it, but it was John Travolta," Dill said. "I'll never forget that call. I'm here today to let him and his family know how sorry we are for them."
Jacob Urbowicz, who said he lives in Jumbolair, was also standing outside. He said Travolta helped his son when the boy was sick.
"I'm standing outside this gate to let John know I support him," Urbowicz said. "I know it's going to take some time to deal with this. No parent should ever have to bury a child. But once all the commotion ends, John and Kelly have to get back to living their lives. Just like everyone else whose ever lost a loved one. It's hard, but you have to go on."
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