SPRINGFIELD — They came by the dozens, parking in the lot and, when that was full, on the street and on the grass. They walked in pairs and in small groups, clasping hands and offering close friends a hug or a kiss on the cheek. As the sun shone brightly overhead, they stood in a line that circled around the lot, waiting, at times, for more than two hours to pay their respects.
By 3 p.m., hundreds had arrived at Sampson’s Chapel of the Acres funeral home in Springfield to mourn Amy E. Lord, the 24-year-old Wilbraham native who was kidnapped and slain last Tuesday in Boston. Close to 1,000 relatives, friends, and community members would stop by over the course of the afternoon.
As those who waited in line remembered Lord, a portrait emerged of a bright and bubbly young woman, a born leader, a talented student athlete, a fierce friend.
Ned Doyle, 67, Lord’s high school athletic director, said she was a “delightful young woman in every regard,” socially, academically, athletically. As captain of the cheerleading squad, a driving engine of school spirit at Minnechaug Regional High School, Lord was enthusiastic and, most importantly, inclusive, he said.
“No one should be surprised she was elected captain,” he said. “She cared for everyone and wanted the best for everyone. She was always out there, bringing the community together, whether at an athletic event or a cheerleading competition.”
She pushed the other cheerleaders to be athletes of strong character and scholarship, Doyle said, and, like any gifted leader, she exemplified those traits. Perhaps her signature trait was her smile. She was rarely in a bad mood, Doyle said, and it was infectious.
Lord could put anyone at ease, said Adam Pelzek, 26, of East Longmeadow. He met her through mutual friends last year, he said, and they spent time together, often at pool parties at his house. Though he did not know her for long, he said, he felt he had known her his whole life.
“The second I met her, she had that effect on me,” he said. “She was fun, always laughing, and never left anyone out of the picture.”
For many, the large crowd Monday afternoon was confirmation of something they already knew: that Lord touched and inspired many in Wilbraham, a small, tight-knit town 7 miles east of Springfield.
Ruth Moorhouse, 54, who went to Ludlow High School with Amy’s father, Dennis A. Lord, saw the family at reunions and the occasional get-together. By the time she arrived at the wake, not long after it began, Moorhouse said she had to find parking almost six blocks away.
Moorhouse said Amy Lord reminded her of her own daughters, both now in their 20s, consistently happy and outgoing.
“She was just always smiling,” Moorhouse said.
Police have said Lord was attacked early Tuesday morning as she left her apartment building at 124 Dorchester St., in South Boston. She was forced back into the vestibule of the building, beaten, and then made to drive to five ATMs in Boston to withdraw cash.
Her body was found Tuesday afternoon at the Stony Brook Reservation in Hyde Park. Police have a “person of interest” in custody, but have yet to make an arrest. A funeral service is planned for 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Wilbraham, followed by burial.
On the street outside the funeral home, Sophia Navalance, a Wilbraham native whose children attended high school with Lord, bit back tears. As the mother of two daughters, one of whom is moving to South Boston within the month, she said this is what scares her most: knowing a mother can do only so much to protect her children. She has given her 22-year-old daughter pepper spray and advised her, over and over, never to get into a stranger’s car.
“It’s the worst thing you can ever imagine,” she said. “The Lords are just a wonderful, wonderful family, and I’m sure they guided Amy the right way. These things can just happen anywhere.”
Inside the funeral home, a slide show of Lord’s life played on a large television screen, and guests were invited to leave a note, memory, or prayer inside a memory book, which, just a few hours into the wake, had swelled to more than 40 pages.
Outside, white ribbons adorned trees and telephone poles, a show of support for Lord and her family that has spread to South Boston.
Aurora Pierangelo, 24, who has spent most of her life in Wilbraham, devised the white ribbon movement. The ribbons, she said, are part of an effort to ensure that Lord’s legacy transcends the tragedy of her death. And they are meant as a statement about the violence that too often befalls women.
“We want to remember her as this beautiful person,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do, but it’s all for her.”Nikita Lalwani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.