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Beth Wischmeyer, Forum Communications Co., Published November 06 2009

At Dickinson State memorial, parents of lost students told ‘we are with you’

It was an event filled with tears but with a resounding message to look toward the future as Dickinson State University students, friends and family gathered Thursday to honor the three students who were found Tuesday in a vehicle submerged in a stock pond outside of Dickinson.

The softball jerseys of Kyrstin Gemar, 22, Ashley Neufeld, 21, and Afton Williamson, 20, were framed and given to their parents during the memorial, and university officials announced that the softball numbers will be retired.

The Rev. Scott McKirdy of the United Methodist Church in Dickinson likened the girls to three flowers that have their beauty appreciated and never forgotten.

“Today Ashley, Kyrstin and Afton have become, for all of us in this moment, our friends and our teammates and our daughters and our students and our classmates,” McKirdy said. “As we grieve together, there is community, and we remember the beauty and perfection of Ashley and Kyrstin and Afton.”

DSU President Dr. Richard McCallum spoke to the young women’s parents.

“We are with you on this journey,” he said. “In some small way, it is our hope that the love and the compassion that you feel today will help you as you move forward.”

The journey of grief will continue for a very long time, he said.

Ashley’s mother, Bev Neufeld, thanked the community and the school for being “Ash’s” home away from home.

“She absolutely loved it here and couldn’t wait to come back. She would want all of you to put on your best smiles,” Neufeld said. “I hear her telling me, and all of you, to be strong.”

Beth Wischmeyer is a reporter for the Dickinson Press, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.