WILDWOOD — Family and friends flooded into St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church here Wednesday morning to pay their last respects to Elijah Joseph Ulbrich, a 3-year-old North Wildwood boy who died March 17, allegedly at the hands of a man who was asked to baby-sit him.
The funeral service drew about 100 people who filled the church, facing a tiny box that held Elijah’s remains.
“It was a beautiful service, very sad. My heart goes out to the family,” Marion Hubbard said as she left the church.
Eldon Voncolln left the church shaking his head and calling it a real shame.
“I’m going to go home and hug my daughter,” said Voncolln, speaking about his
“I can’t imagine what they’re going through. I’ll cherish every minute with my daughter from here on out. It’s a whole new perspective.”
The boy, whose family said he was a Philadelphia sports fan, even at age 3, had been in a coma at Cooper University Hospital in Camden since late February.
Charles Kane Jr., of Lower Township, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death and is being held in the Cape May County Jail on $500,000 bail. Authorities said Kane “intentionally inflicted trauma to the child’s head” on the night of Feb. 25. Elijah’s mother, Christina Ulbrich, said she had gone out to do laundry and pick up some items at Wawa and left the boy with Kane. Elijah’s father, Richard Ulbrich, was separated from his wife and lived several blocks away.
The Funeral Mass began at noon, but friends and family arrived two hours earlier to pay their last respects.
“I’m here to support the whole family. It’s just a tragedy,” Elizabeth Burns said.
Burns said there was little she could do to ease the family’s pain.
“There’s really nothing you can say to somebody who just lost their child in such a tragic way. You can just be there for them,” Burns added.
Some hoped some good could come from the death of a boy who never saw his fourth birthday. Elijah was injured at night as a winter storm lashed North Wildwood. This grounded medical helicopters and led to a long delay getting him to the pediatric trauma center in Camden.
It may not have mattered due to Elijah’s serious head injury, but some think a fitting tribute would be to have the untimely death result in a high-level pediatric trauma center at the New Jersey shore. The nearest one is Cooper University Hospital in Camden.
“The biggest thing is we’re trying to get a trauma center down here,” said Jim McMakin, Elijah’s maternal grandfather.
Voncolln, an EMT in Middle Township, said he is constantly waiting for medical helicopters with his patients for a trip to Camden that he said costs thousands of dollars. Would the money be better invested in locating a trauma center at the shore?
“I’m shocked they don’t have one because it’s a tourist town and there are a lot of kids here,” Burns said.
In an interview several weeks ago when Elijah was alive but in a coma, Christina Ulbrich said it took more than five hours to get her son to Cooper. She said every minute counts with a brain injury and she would fight to get a pediatric trauma unit at the shore.
As the service ended, family and friends went to their cars and hit their horns. One woman said it was “a blessing” for Elijah.
A Beef ’N’ Beer benefit is being held to help offset costs incurred for Elijah’s care 7 p.m. Saturday at the North Wildwood Moose Lodge 585, 314 W. Spruce Ave. Tickets can be purchased at the door.
Contact Richard Degener: