OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Family members who brought blond-haired Emilie Parker back to Utah for her burial remembered the 6-year-old killed in the Connecticut school shooting as a ‘‘picture of perfection’’ at a memorial service Thursday in Ogden.
Emilie’s parents, Robbie and Alissa Parker, have roots in the town about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, and hundreds of people attended the service in a packed atrium at Ben Lomond High School, where the couple were high-school sweethearts.
Robbie Parker, a 32-year-old physician’s assistant who landed a job in Connecticut less than a year ago, became one of the faces of the tragedy early on when he appeared before cameras to describe the couple’s grief. Their oldest daughter was one of the 20 children and six adults gunned down Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
‘‘Even though this was a very personal and internal thing for us, I could see it touched everybody,’’ Robbie Parker told the packed crowd late Thursday. ‘‘All of us feel connected to children.’’
He struggled to maintain his composure and buried his face in his hands after sitting down.
The parents have asked for privacy at a funeral set for Saturday. Emilie will be laid to rest in a favorite white dress with an American Girl doll at a gravesite next to her maternal grandfather, who died Sept. 29.
Douglas G. Cottle was an Ogden dentist who fell from his bicycle during a 200-mile race. He was recovering from brain trauma but fell and hit his head a second time trying to walk from a hospital bed, friends said. He was 62.
‘‘This family has had unbelievable loss,’’ Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said. ‘‘The community wants to reach out and show support. We've hung thousands of yards of pink ribbon. This community has overwhelming sorrow and grief for them.’’
Robbie Parker described his arrival back home with the couple’s two younger girls, Madeline and Samantha, as bittersweet. He said the ribbons ‘‘made us feel like we were getting a big hug from everybody.’’ He drove around, stopping at the house where the couple brought Emilie after she was born.
The familiar sights weighed heavily on the father, who said his grief was mixed with love he felt from family and friends. ‘‘We understand you guys are there with us,’’ he said.
Emilie’s short life was celebrated Thursday in a slide show and brief remarks from family members. They recalled a girl full of love, joy and enthusiasm. Her father said she loved to pick flowers — ‘‘like a goat.’’ He finally told her to limit the picking to dandelions.
‘‘Emilie always wanted to help people feel better,’’ said a family obituary released Thursday by Myers Mortuary in Ogden. ‘‘Her compassion and charity was exemplified with her hugs, the cards she would make, and her statement that, ‘I wish everybody could just be happy.'’’
Emilie loved to draw and listen as her parents read Harry Potter stories, relatives said.
‘‘She had pink everything,’’ Natalie Parker, an aunt from Connecticut, told The Salt Lake Tribune. ‘‘A pink dresser and, well, the thing I remember most, a big, pink four-post bed.’’