Skylar, Youngest Person To Die Of Covid-19 in MI, Embodies The Peaceful Spirit Of Sky Bar And Grill
This photo captures the Skybar and Grille establishment on May 8 located on Fenkell street in Detroit, where many adults go to enjoy their evening with Ebbie and LaVondria there to make them feel welcome.
“She loved being here. She would come and lay on the dance floor while the rest of us were cleaning up, trying to get the place together before we had opened.”
This is how LaVondria Herbert, Skylar’s mother, described Skylar’s experience at Skybar and Grille before she became one of the youngest victims in Michigan to pass away from Covid-19 on April 19, 2020.
Ebbie Herbert opened Skybar and Grille 2018 on Fenkell st in the heart of Detroit. The name of the bar comes from his youngest daughter, Skylar Herbert. Skylar Herbert was one of the youngest victims in Michigan to die from Covid-19. Throughout the grieving process of the devastating loss, both Ebbie and LaVondria used Skylar as their motivation to continue moving forward.
“Skylar got me out of that funk. It was Skylar’s light shining. I would always think ‘What would Skylar do or what would Skylar want me to do?’” Herbert said.
His goal after the passing of Skylar was to honor her with Skybar and Grille.
“Before she passed I thought the sky would be good,” Herbert said. “When you look at the sky and the sun is shining you're happy, and you know it’s gonna be a good day. Skylar was a breath of fresh air.”
After Ebbie Herbert opened Skybar and Grille, Skylar would excitedly tell her peers in kindergarten and employees at Skybar and Grille about how she had a bar named after her.
“She was always saying ‘You know I have a bar’ when she was at school in kindergarten. ‘You know I have a bar right, it's a bar named after me’ and I would tell her ‘You can't say that to people, you know you're in kindergarten so it’s not your bar.’ So she was here often. She had her own table from home because she would be here and my mother would be here, and they would sit back in the office. She would sit back there and color or be on the laptop or my phone or my mothers phone.” LaVondria Herbert said
“I remember when we first opened up and she was just running around here,” Blaque Christian, an employee at Skybar and Grille, said “She would always tell me ‘Blaque this is my bar!’ and I would be like ‘Girl! Yeah it is’. Then they put her name up there and when she saw that she put a stamp on it.”
The SkyBar and Grille logo, ‘Sky’, painted by the Herberts’ close friend, Country in January 2020, inside of the bar in large lettering showed Skylar that Skybar and Grille really was her bar.
Just like Ebbie and Lavondria Herbert, Skylar was also a social butterfly with a zest for life.
“She was really really friendly so everybody loved her. Nothing ever bad. She wanted to always have friends and make friends. When we went on a trip to Disney World for her fifth birthday. She was excited about everything.” LaVondria Herbert said “She’d run up to all the characters- she was a hugger- so she hugged everybody. Hugged strangers that she didn't know walking through the park. Hugging little kids. If anybody stopped to talk to her she'd give them a hug and she would always introduce herself ‘Hi, I’m Skylar Herbert’ just for a 5 year old she was really smart.”
Skylar continued to shock her parents as well as Skybar and Grille employees with her level of intelligence at the young age of 5.
“One time we were at Olive Garden and she had just learned Spanish. She said something in spanish to the waiter, and he was Hispanic.” Herbert said “I was trying to figure out ‘What made her say that to him? You don't know the difference between hispanic person, black person, or a white person? You’re only three years old’. But she said something to him and then she started saying her numbers in Spanish, and then she said the alphabet in spanish. He was shocked and was like ‘Wait a minute, how old is she? 5?’ and I said ‘No, she's 3’ he was really surprised and Skylar told him again ‘No, im 3 years old.’”
Blaque Chrsitan would overhear Skylar speaking Spanish while speaking with Ebbie Or Lavondria Herbert over the phone.
“She was advanced. She spoke different languages, so she was smart.” Christian said “I never got to hear her speak in person, but I was on the phone with Mr.Herbert and he was telling her ‘Can you speak English please?’ and he was talking about Skylar”
Although Skylar was a bright child the impact of Covid-19 was a difficult concept for her to understand.
“She didn't really understand the process.” Herbert said “The first week they were taking blood all the time, and she was a little manipulator so she would tell the nurse ‘Okay wait a minute.. count to five before you give me the shot. Wait now count to 10’ it was a little game that she would play with the nurses. When the nurses saw her that first week they were so affected because they knew that this shouldn't be happening to her.”
Although the CDC reported that COVID-19 wasn’t severe for most young children, Skylar's health continued to decline.
“My daughter had this disease that came out of nowhere, and I was able to be in the hospital with her for three weeks.” Herbert said “One week she was fine, the next week she was dwindling, and then the last week it was just bad. We didn't know it was going to be like that. They were saying the virus isn't killing kids, so we didn't think it was gonna be bad. All of a sudden she went down.”
Some parents who have to bear the loss of their children didn’t get to spend their last moments with them, but LaVondria Herbert was able to do this.
“One lady’s son got shot up in their house. Her two year old son got shot in the chest by an AK-47. So that makes me strong, knowing that I was able to be there with her.” LaVondria Herbert said “Just the thought of losing my child to gun violence in a split second and not being able to say goodbye to them. You know… I was able to lay in the bed with her the day before...knowing the next day she might not make it. I don't know where I pulled that strength from.”
“She was never a bad kid, that's the thing. She felt sorry if she did something bad, and she was smart beyond her years. It's one of the hardest things. Just knowing and thinking who she would have become and the things that she was capable of. She was going to be great.” Herbert said “That's one of the hard parts. But just knowing my husband and I could provide for her and give her all the love we had. Just knowing she had so many people behind her and in her corner and would've been there to support her. It was just hard for me to understand why she was taken. But I know God doesn't make mistakes, and I say that all the time and hope that in my heart I truly believe it. ”
Skylar's teacher also thought about Skylars bright future.
“Her teacher, Mrs. Ida, told me that she was going to be the first female president because she's smart, she asks a lot of questions, and she likes to debate. She told me that she’s never met a kid like her. On her preschool graduation cap I put ‘Skylar for president 2032’,” Herbert said
Speed painter, Dave Sanita,painted and gifted a portrait of Skylar Herbert to the Herbert family on September 27 after Skylars passing.
Skylar was the inspiration for the name of Skybar and Grille. Ebbie’s inspiration behind the bar itself came from his passion for bringing people together and helping them to enjoy themselves.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, and I always wanted to own a bar at some point in my life. I love to entertain people and to have a good time. I love to socialize. I’m just a people person,” Herbert said.
Ebbie Herbert emphasized how important it is to bring people together in any way they can during the loneliness of Covid-19.
“There's so much going on in this world right now,” Herbert said. “From the pandemic to unemployment to people struggling, sometimes people need to get away and have somewhere to have a drink and socialize with family or friends.To hear other people's problems and to just get away,” Herbert said.
Ebbie Herbert continued to express his passion for helping people and bringing them together by explaining his main motto.
“Customer service. If I don’t have customer service I don’t have anything. If I can satisfy 98-99% of the people that come through those doors then I'm happy,” Herbert said.
Skybar and Grille has allowed both Ebbie and LaVondria Herbert to do what they do best, help others. As first responders it’s natural for them to want to see people safe while also having a good time.
“My favorite thing is really just seeing people come in and enjoy themselves. Because of the pandemic so many people have been staying home, and it helps me cope with my grieving process of losing my daughter.” LaVondria Herbert said “And just being able to be around people and seeing other people happy...just to get out and see people and be able to touch people.”
Blaque Christian can attest to both of the Herberts’ claims when it comes to their motto of community service and their love for seeing people enjoy themselves during these troubling times.
“They [Ebbie and LaVondria] make them [Customers] feel welcome. He always makes them feel welcome every night. He always makes sure to tell everybody ‘thank you for coming to the bar.’ Their main goal is to help bring more to the community, and to help the community come in and be aware of what's going on. They want to get our name out and show people that we’re trying to build the community. And one of my main goals is to be here and be friendly and just bring a good atmosphere. I just love the atmosphere,” Chrisitan said.
Kindness and customer service is of utmost importance to the Herberts. Ebbie makes sure to remind his customers that Skybar and Grille isn't just a regular bar.
“They [Ebbie and LaVondria] knew that they had to keep going for Skylar because this place is hers and she wanted it open.” Christian said “He gives a speech every single night. He makes it known that this is his daughter's bar and that we’re doing it for her. So he makes sure to let everybody know. We do it in memory of her.”
On May 8 Ebbie Herbert gave his nightly speech on his ‘House Rules’ on how he expects his customers to behave under Covid-19 restrictions and reminds customers that Skybar and Grille is Skyler's place. . (Video taken by LaVondria Herbert)
Regulars at Skybar and Grille like Mike Diggs feel the welcoming atmosphere of the bar and how it aligns with Ebbie Herberts’ motto.
“This bar is lovely. It’s like a family atmosphere and it's beautiful.The setting is great. Most club owners don't appreciate their customers, and most owners should. Some will say ‘lets have a customer appreciation night’ but Ebbie does those speeches every night. And it’s all dedicated to Skylar. He takes the time to appreciate the customers because he knows without the customers there's no business. And he understands that and he gives back to his community. You don't want to be a one hit wonder establishment. You want to be everlasting and Skybar and Grille is everlasting.” Diggs said
Not only do the owners pride themselves in making their customers feel welcome, but they also work hard to make their employees feel appreciated and cared for just as they cared for Skylar .
“The last bar I worked at was all business; it wasn't about being a family or being concerned about each other. It was just about how much money we made. There was no concern there, so coming here was totally different. There I didn't feel like family and it just felt like a job. Going there, clocking in, doing my job, clocking out, and then going home. Here it’s not like that. Here we all do it together. We’re like a team.” Christian said “When you go up to a job you want somebody to care about you, and you don't want to feel like you're just coming to a job and making them money. So they're [Ebbie and LaVondria] always concerned about that. If we need some help they’ll get back there and help us, they come back there pull up their sleeves and next thing you know they're working right alongside us. You don't find owners doing that. You find them sitting back wanting to hire more people, but that's not the case here. Every night might not be like that, but if it happens to get crowded they are willing to come back there and do what they have to do to satisfy their customers.”
Before the bar opens Ebbie Herbert (Center) gathers his employees for a pep talk every night and continues to inspire employees, like Blaque Christian(third to the left), with his kindness and enthusiasm for work and honoring Skylar in her bar on April 18. (by Ebbie's Cousin, Shon Herbert)
Knowing Ebbie for twenty years, Christian commended him on his consistent kindness and hard work throughout the years.
“He’s never changed since the first day I met him. He's always been a friendly and kind guy, he works so hard. His work ethic is incredible and he doesn treat me like an employee he treats me like family.” Christian said. “He keeps things in order, and he listens. He asks us even at the end of the night ‘How was your night? Did you have a good night? Do you have any concerns or questions?’ He's very concerned about what he’s doing and how he does things. I’ve worked at a lot of bars and they just want you in and doing your job and then go about your business. He doesn't bring that here and that's what we love about him.”
Skylar's passing didn’t only have an impact on her immediate family, it also affected the employees and customers at Skybar and Grille.
“She had the best smile. No matter who you were she would walk up to you with that big ol’ smile and she would say ‘Hi!’ You could come in here slumber and she would walk up to you like ‘Hi!’, and it was her smile and her energy. You could just feel her energy, and it was so overwhelming, and you couldn't do anything but smile back.” Christian said “She was so vibrant. She was always running around saying stuff like ‘I wanna wipe the tables!’ and I would have her wipe the little tables because she was so small. She always wanted to help and she was such a sweetheart. When she passed everybody was devastated. It felt like my niece had passed away. For awhile after she passed I would come into work expecting her to come running in past me like she usually did, but then I would remember”
Customers who never knew Skylar personally sympathize with the loss that the Herberts’ had to endure.
“You have to live with it every day when you go home and you think ‘Where’s Skylar?’ and she's not there. And you have to live with that daily so the pain as a parent,” Diggs said. “You hear all the time that a child is supposed to bear the loss of their parents, not a parent bearing the loss of their child. So they have to live with that daily.”
Ebbie and LaVondria Herbert will always make sure that everyone knows Skylar and Grille is Skylar’s place.
“Skylar has a purpose. And as long as I'm living my purpose is to tell her story and keep doing the things that she would want me to do,” Ebbie Herbert said. “This restaurant is her light. I don't ever want her to not be uncomfortable in her place. That’s my way of honoring her. Like the Abraham Lincoln memorial. There's always a light shining on him. And that's how I feel about my baby. I'm always going to keep her light shining.”