Hundreds celebrate the life of church van accident victim who ‘touched lives’

NOTTOWAY COUNTY, Va. -- Hundreds gathered inside Nottoway Middle School Tuesday morning for a celebration of life for Wartena Somerville.

Somerville and three other members of Shiloh Baptist Church in Blackstone were killed when their church van was hit by a large pick-up carrying metal, as it was turning into a church parking lot on Route 460 in Dinwiddie County.

The 36-year-old leaves behind her husband, Michael, and their 9-month-old baby.

Wartena Somerville and husband, Michael -- Shiloh Baptist Church Fatal Van Crash

While the two-hour service brought tears to the eyes of many, the service was also filled with thunderous clapping mixed and laughter.

The thread throughout the service combined her love of church and God with Somerville's passion for teaching.

"She touched a whole lot of lives," said Rev. Benjamin Brown Jr, Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church where Somerville was a fixture.

Dr. Sherry Saunders, with Nottoway County Schools, hired Somerville.

"A great woman of faith," Saunders said. "She was an incredible teacher, she always called her kids love bugs and she hugged them each evening when they went out to the buses."

Wartena Somerville

Lloyd Page, Somerville's current principal said: "The kids loved her, very well-respected."

"Beautiful, wonderful service, wonderful young lady, wonderful family and you could tell she was a spirit-filled young woman who knew the Lord," added Reverend Joseph Fields, Pastor of Mount Zion Church, where the accident occurred.

"It was a great homegoing service," Brown added. "I'm sure Michael, Wartena's husband... I know he's sad but he's overjoyed also and we just thank God for everybody that came out to show the love and support in her passing."

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