Vigil held in memory of Karen Kahler and her daughters

The mother of three was an MU junior and ARC trainer.
A photo of the Kahler family sits at a table for friends to view at the vigil Thursday night at the Activity and Recreation Center. Karen Kahler, who was an instructor at the ARC, along with her two daughters Emily and Lauren, were killed Saturday.

More than 100 people gathered Thursday outside the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Karen Kahler and her two daughters, Emily and Lauren Kahler.

Mrs. Kahler, who worked at the ARC and was enrolled as a junior at MU studying health sciences, was shot to death along with her grandmother, Dorothy Wight, and her two teenage daughters Saturday at the grandmother's home in Kansas. Mrs. Kahler and her daughters died in the home; Wight was put in intensive care and died Tuesday.

"We just wanted to do this vigil to honor Karen and her family," said Shay Gann, a friend of Mrs. Kahler's and a member of her boot camp class. "We felt like it was important to give the community a chance to do that as well."

The vigil included a message from Disciples of Christ minister Bill Ryan.

"Sometimes all we can do is come together in remembrance and compassion," Ryan said. "I just wanted to emphasize a feeling of community during this time."

Ryan said he found it difficult to make sense of the tragedy of the situation.

"In the midst of tragedy, sometimes there's no logical answer and people have to realize that," Ryan said. "But helping people find a way to respond to something like this is a way of coping with it."

Friends of the Kahlers held candles and huddled together in the 30-degree weather for both emotional support and warmth.

"She started out my trainer but became so much more," said Lysa Holmes, one of Mrs. Kahler's clients at the ARC and a family friend. "She really meant a lot to me. I saw her two to three days a week since May."

Holmes said she saw the Kahlers outside of the gym as well.

"We swapped recipes, she had planned to crewing with us in my husband's hot air balloon," Holmes said. "She hadn't gotten to go up yet."

Several members of Mrs. Kahler's classes at the ARC and fellow employees attended the vigil.

"She had such an upbeat attitude and was just so strong," said Tracy Jones, a member of Kahler's class at ARC. "She had a very lighthearted laugh."

Gann started a blog to give the Kahler's friends and relatives a place to share memories of the family. The blog, "In Memory of Karen, Emily and Lauren Kahler," also uses the PayPal system to raise support for immediate financial needs and for the ongoing care of Sean Kahler, Mrs. Kahler's 10-year-old son, who escaped from the home where the shootings took place. The blog also honors Wight.

A funeral for Karen, Emily and Lauren Kahler is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Federated Church in Burlingame, Kan., where the shootings took place.

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