Tears, laughter and healing: Murdered teen remembered at Palmer vigil
Hundreds of people braved single-digit temperatures to remember David Grunwald, the Palmer teen murdered almost one month ago. Family friends organized a candlelight vigil as a way to not just mourn the 16-year-old, but to take steps toward healing from the pain of his passing.
“We just want to get back to the core of who we are,” said Tom Spangler, one of the memorial organizers. “There’s no denying the wicked evil that kind of perpetrated, what went forward with David. We just want to remember that’s not who we are.”
As people started gathering for the vigil, among them was Franklin Feagle, holding a sign that said “free hugs.” He is a longtime friend of David Grunwald’s girlfriend’s father, Adam Mokelke. Feagle said he wanted to be there to offer support to both families.
“I want to come out here and spread the love, and spread the positivity and hopefully it works. Hopefully, it helps somebody,” said Feagle.
Help is something many Mat-Su area residents need. The loss of a 16-year-old boy has been impossible for many to understand.
“When David went missing, something inside all of us went missing and we haven’t been able to get that back and we won’t,” said Renee Royal, another Mokelke family friend. She was holding a sign that said “Justice for David.” Despite additional charges brought against the group of teens involved, Royal said she’s waiting for the judge to hand down a harsh sentence.
“These new charges are good,” said Royal. “I don’t know if that’s enough. I definitely don’t feel like justice is served yet.”
As more and more people gathered for the vigil, each shining a light on David Grunwald’s memory, that feeling of sadness gave way to laugher when Mokelke told a funny story about the first time the teen asked out his daughter, Victoria Mokelke.
“I said honey I’m not mad, but he needs to come and ask me himself. And I thought, that’ll fix it,” Mokelke said, laughing. “But I didn’t know David yet.”
The pair dated for a year.
“We had big plans,” said Victoria Mokelke. “He always said, ‘Victoria, I’m going to marry you and I’m going to take you to Alabama and we’re going to have like 100 kids.'”
David Grunwald’s life, cut short, was revived through their remembrance.
“We need to heal. We need to get better and we need to get stronger and honor David’s memory,” said Adam Mokelke.
David Grunwald’s mother, Edie Grunwalk, also spoke, calling her son’s death still unbelievable.
“It’s really weird because I’ve gone up to his room a couple times and I’ve straightened a few things up and they haven’t moved,” she said, adding that her son’s room was usually messy. She thanked the gathered crowd for their support as her family grieves their loss.
When the planned speeches were over, Spangler invited anyone who wanted to to speak about David Grunwald. One by one, his friends and classmates shared stories of how he’d inspired them, comforted them and made their lives better. It ended with the crowd singing “Amazing Grace.”
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