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'A beacon of light': Family, friends, community remember Mollie Tibbetts

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“Mollie is nobody’s victim,” Rob Tibbetts told the packed gymnasium at Brooklyn Guernsey and Malcom High School on Sunday during his daughter’s Funeral. “Mollie’s my hero.”

“And, today it’s time to turn the page,” he said. “We’re at the end of a long ordeal, but now we need to turn toward life. We need to heal — this community needs to heal, our family needs to heal, but the problem with that is the person best equipped to help us through this is Mollie. So, let’s try to do what Mollie would do. Let’s say what Mollie would say. Let’s start with baby steps.”

Rob encouraged the people in the crowd to smile at the person next to them, take the hands of those they know and love and to take time each day, and in each moment, to “live like Mollie did,” with compassion and kindness and a desire to help those around her. He also thanked everyone involved in the five-week effort to find his daughter and help bring her home.

“You want to know the secret of why there was this outpouring of support for Mollie? It’s because we see ourselves in Mollie — it’s because we are a part of her,” he said.

Rob remembered his daughter as sweet, kind, faithful and passionate. She was someone who always had an ear ready to listen, he said, and a hand ready to help.

 Twenty-year-old Mollie Tibbetts captured the nation’s attention when she disappeared on July 18 while jogging in Brooklyn, Iowa. After more than a month of searching, the California-native-turned-Iowan was found dead in rural Poweshiek County.

As a testament to her character and her deep ties to the Brooklyn community, roughly 2,000 people attended her funeral Sunday at the local high school in Brooklyn.

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Mollie was known for her enthusiasm, her compassion, her goofiness and her determination. She was a rising sophomore at University of Iowa, who was studying psychology and looking forward to moving into her first apartment at the start of the school year. Her parents said Mollie was interested in working with troubled children, and possibly writing, when she finished school. There was also quiet talk of marriage between Mollie and her boyfriend of three years, Dalton Jack.

Those who spoke Sunday remembered Mollie as a “beacon of light.”

“When I think of the life of Mollie Tibbetts and her tragic death, I wonder why she is gone and I am still here,” said Father Corey Close, pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Brooklyn. “When I hear the many stories of who she was, of how she touched people’s lives, of her infectious joy and smile, I wonder by what rights I have to be living when she, who had so much promise and so much love to give, should have her life cut short. I see Mollie as a bright shining light, touching the lives of those who knew her.”

Though her death is tragic, Close said it is not the end of Mollie’s story. Instead, he said, the seeds she spread during her life will continue to touch those who knew her, and her life will inspire many, if not millions, to live a life of love and service like she did.

“Who can say what fruit that will bear?” Close said. “Who can say what good will come from what Mollie has already given to the world? I’ve already seen how her passing has touched lives — has changed lives.”

The priest encouraged those in the crowd to take a page from Mollie’s book, and “rededicate yourselves to living a good life, a faithful life, a life of goodness and compassion.”

In the weeks that followed her disappearance, Jake Tibbetts said his sister was painted as this perfect, all-American girl. But she was human just like everyone else, he said.

“Mollie was not perfect,” he said. “She was the first to tell you about her imperfections, the first to admit it. She owned up to her mistakes and laughed out loud when Scott (Tibbetts) and I pointed them out and teased her.”  

Jake described his sister a good-natured and goofy with an abundant sense of humor. She was eager to learn, always striving to be better and loved to help people, he said.

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And though he and her family are heartbroken by her loss, Jake said he knows his sister is in a better place now — one where she can truly thrive and reach her full potential.

Jake said he can see his sister taking full advantage of all the great minds in Heaven that she now has the opportunity to interact with.

He said he can see her learning how to better communicate and touch people’s minds and hearts from Martin Luther King Jr. He said he can see Mollie discussing politics and how to unify the nation with Abraham Lincoln, getting running tips from Steve Prefontaine, an American runner who competed in the 1972 Olympics and someone Mollie looked up to. Jake said he can see his sister talking about women and their strength and determination with Harriet Tubman and gleaning tidbits of wisdom from Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dubmledore.

“I can see her dancing with joy in her heart,” he said. “Mollie’s best life here would be spent helping others, helping everyone in this room. But the problem with that was there was only one Mollie and … she could only help so many at once. And now she’s in a place where she can watch over everyone in here and everyone in the country and help them reach their goals, solve their problems and make their lives better, because that’s what Mollie was all about. That’s all she wanted to do.”  

| Comments: 319-398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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