PEMBROKE PINES (CBS4) – Hundreds of people who knew and loved Natalie Belmonte crowded into a school parking lot in western Pembroke Pines on Friday night to pay their respects and create a vigil to a woman loved by many.
Belmonte’s family — including her mother, daughter, son and brother-in-law — joined the crowd to lead the vigil and make a statement about Natalie.
“She will be sadly missed by her family and everyone who knew her,” said Andre Texeira, Natalie’s brother-in-law, who read a statement on behalf of Natalie’s mother. “Her family has enjoyed every minute that she has been on this earth.”
The family spoke of Natalie’s generosity and love of life.
“She was a joy as a baby, as a growing child and as an adult,” Texeira said. “She loved life and everyone in her life.”
Her family did not mention Gerry Belmonte, Natalie’s adopted son, who is accused of murdering her and dumping her body in a marshland near her home.
That marshland — along SW 196 Avenue — is where the crowd ended up on Friday night. They placed photos of Natalie, candles and flowers as part of a memorial to her.
As the crowd gathered to pay their respects, Natalie’s mother said quietly, “This isn’t right.”
With tears in their eyes and heavy hearts, the mourners listened to a minister lead a prayer for Natalie and her family.
There were some lighter moments as people remembered the moments they shared with Natalie.
Many of the people attending the vigil worked with Natalie at her real estate office or The Home Depot. One woman, Donna Chaleff, said Natalie was down to earth and always talked to Chaleff about the color of her hair.
“She always used to tell me which colors to dye my hair,” Chaleff said, raising her eyes to the heavens. “Natalie my hair’s died today and I hope you like the color. I miss you. ”
By the end of the evening the portion of the sidewalk where the memorial was created was covered with candles, flowers and photos.
Despite the trove of candles and flickering flames, Natalie’s family says a bright light is gone from their lives.