BOXHOLM – Kathlynn Shepard’s father asked for everyone to remember his daughter for how she lived her life at her memorial service Thursday.
Hundreds of people from around Iowa packed the gym at Southeast Webster-Grand Middle School to say goodbye to Shepard, 15, of Dayton.
The teenager was abducted on May 20, along with a 12-year-old girl, while walking home from school. The 12-year-old was able to escape, but Shepard did not. She was found dead June 7 in the Des Moines River at the foot of the Kate Shelley High Bridge near Boone.
The man identified by authorities as her abductor, Michael Klunder, 42, committed suicide at a hog confinement north of Dayton May 20.
Shepard’s father, Michael Shepard, talked Thursday about the importance of remembering his daughter for her life.
“For all of you who knew her, picture the best memory that you have of her in your head,” Michael Shepard said. “Hold it there.”
He also talked about his daughter’s personality, recalling a conversation he had with her the day before he was deployed to serve in Iraq. Kathlynn Shepard had asked him why he was going.
“I sat her down and asked her if she liked riding her bike, and she said ‘Yes,'” he said. “I asked if she liked to go to her friend’s house and to play on the playground, and she said ‘Yes.’ I told her that the children of Iraq didn’t get to do that and they couldn’t be happy.”
After telling that to his daughter, Michael Shepard said she looked up at him with what he referred to as the “Shepard smirk,” which caused those in attendance to chuckle quietly.
“With that gleam, she told me, ‘Well, you better go help them,'” Michael Shepard said. “And I said to her, ‘yes, ma’am.'”
After his deployment, every time he had a video chat with his daughter, she’d always ask him if he was helping the children.
“All Kathlynn wanted was for people to be happy and to help out anyone she can,” her father told mourners. “And as she looks down on us, she sees everyone who has helped, both in the search and the recovery. She also sees everyone who provided food and supplies to those who were searching.”
“I know she’s smiling down on you guys,” he added. “Take that to heart.”
Michael Shepard also asked that everyone do one kind act a day to honor his daughter.
“Think of Kathlynn when you do that one kind thing,” he said. “It will make the world a better place.”
He received a standing ovation as he took his seat next to his wife, Denise, and their three other children, Mikayla, Brady and Jessica.
The Rev. Ron Munson said Thursday was meant as a day to celebrate Kathlynn Shepard.
“We are celebrating a life,” Munson said. “It’s OK to be excited that we’re honoring Kathlynn. As you think about her, remember the good times. Remember how she made you laugh, and how she would show up and brighten your day.”
Following the service, a procession led by Dayton Police Chief Nick Dunbar traveled the seven miles from Boxholm to Dayton, ending at the Shepard home.
In Dayton, Cindy Davisson, of Boxholm, said her daughters went to school with Kathlynn Shepard and although she doesn’t know the Shepard family personally, she said, she decided to be in Dayton to show her support.
“It’s important to come and support the family,” Davisson said. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”
She commented on how the Dayton community has helped the Shepard family.
“It’s really impressive how they’ve come together by searching and supporting the family,” she said.
Jenny Roe, of Fort Dodge, showed her support by being in Dayton when the procession arrived.
“Something like this touches everybody when it happens,” Roe said. “Especially having family of your own. It really hits close to home.”
Mary Perry traveled from Ames to attend Kathlynn Shepard’s memorial service in Boxholm. Then she followed the procession to Dayton. That community, she said, has set an example for the rest of the state by how it’s been there for the family.
“I feel like Dayton has become the community of Iowa,” Perry said. “I’m very impressed.”
During the memorial service, Munson asked people to continue supporting the Shepard family.
“Find somewhere in your activities or in your daily routines to bless this family and keep them encouraged,” he said. “It will be a wonderful opportunity to show the continued love for her family.”