"She would come home telling funny stories about her school," Cowley-Pendleton said. "I can still see her smile and beautiful eyes. She was our angel."
Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Hadiya, a 15-year-old student at King College Prep, who was killed while hanging out after school at the Vivian Gordon Harsh Park in Kenwood. Michael Ward, 19, and Kenneth Williams, 21, have been charged in her slaying, which police say happened after Ward shot into a crowd hoping to hit a rival gang member.
To celebrate her life, friends and fellow classmates are holding a private memorial service from 3-5 p.m. Wednesday at the school, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. Her parents plan to attend.
Afterward, the Pendletons plan to host a family gathering at their Bronzeville home, which will include some of Hadiya's close friends. They also will visit her gravesite at Oak Woods Cemetery in Woodlawn.
Nathaniel Pendleton recalled what he told Hadiya on Jan. 29, 2013 when she left that day for school.
"I told her 'I love you.' That is what we said every day to each other," he said. "She was standing at the door and turned around and said, 'I love you, too.' Her face was smiling and she was happy as she left for school that morning."
The honor student, who loved to read and take photos, had planned to attend college after high school to pursue a career as a pharmacist or journalist, Pendleton-Cowley said.
"At one point she wanted to be a model, and then a veterinarian. She loved animals, but couldn't stand to see them in pain," her mother said. "I remember her being bothered because her cat was sick."
Her death cut those dreams short and thrust the family into the national spotlight. Her parents made appearances at anti-violence functions in the city, Washington and other places. They created the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation to bring greater awareness to gun violence.
The couple said they still struggle to forgive the two men charged with their daughter's murder. The men have pleaded not guilty to the crime.
"I have no words for them at all. They done the crime but are not remorseful for their actions," Nathaniel Pendleton said. "I have not forgiven them for taking away our angel."
Cowley-Pendleton has stopped going to court hearing and said she finds it difficult to even look at the accused men. At a hearing in September she broke down in tears as one of the men tried to wave to his family.
"What they did was change my life forever, and they act like they don't even care," she said.