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Community honors girl's smile-filled life

Janet Wojtala, left, Kimmie Daily's teacher at Rogers High School, embraces Kimmie's Special Olympics basketball teammate Kristen Hank and Janet's son Joshua Wojtala following Wednesday's memorial service at Calvary Community Church in Sumner.
Janet Wojtala, left, Kimmie Daily's teacher at Rogers High School, embraces Kimmie's Special Olympics basketball teammate Kristen Hank and Janet's son Joshua Wojtala following Wednesday's memorial service at Calvary Community Church in Sumner. The Olympian

Kimmie Daily never could pick a favorite color. She liked them all. "She was kind of a rainbow," Sheri Potter said Wednesday, quoting Kimmie's father, Cecil. Potter had wanted a rainbow made of balloons for Kimmie's funeral, but had to settle for two bouquets of colored balloons. She tied them to the teen’s casket.

“I thought she would like it,” she said. Potter was handing out white, yellow and pink roses to those who came to Calvary Community Church in Sumner to celebrate the life of 16-yearold Kimberly Lucille Pearl Daily. “Cecil wanted everyone to have a rose,” Potter said. More than 600 people, including a contingent of Rogers High School classmates, teachers and fellow Special Olympics athletes nearly filled the large sanctuary.

Kimmie disappeared from home Aug. 17. Her body was found a week later in a blackberry patch eight blocks from her Puyallup South Hill home. An 18-year-old neighbor was arrested in her death.

Potter came from Centralia to Puyallup with members of the Lindsey Baum Search Center to help search for Kimmie and stayed on to help the family with the funeral. The center is named for the 10-year-old McCleary girl who disappeared from her home in June 2009 and hasn’t been found.

Despite the grief and confusion spawned by her tragic death, the Rev. Mark Edwards said the funeral service was not a time to dwell on death but to honor a friend whose life overflowed with love for everyone around her.

“She lived a life of complete unconditional love,” Edwards said. “Love for God, love for her dad and her grandparents, love toward her friends and those she would meet for the first time.”

There was no shortage of friends who came forward to share stories of the teen’s special ways and her love.

“Kimmie was indeed exceptional,” said her next-door neighbor, Marshelle Rodin . “She knew the true meaning of life. It wasn’t in winning but rather in trying. It wasn’t what you have but what you achieved.”

Her way with life made every day special, Rodin said.

“She made sure you knew you were important and that hugs can cure almost everything that ails you,” she explained. “She held fast to the idea that there is good in everyone.”

Kimmie loved dogs, laughing and playing hard, especially basketball. Sleep-overs with popcorn and soda were special times. She was a member of the Rogers High School Special Olympics basketball team. She was small – 4 feet 9 and less than 100 pounds – and fast.

Joshua Wojtala, 21, joined members of the team in wearing the team jersey Wednesday.

“I love her so much,” he said shyly.

Holding back tears, Asha Taft , 15, said she had known Kimmie as a friend since kindergarten. Taft said she hated when fellow students made fun of her friend.

“So many people judged her before they knew her,” Taft said. “She was the best friend anyone could have. I wish more people could have gotten to know her. Your death affected all of Puyallup. The skies are darker without you.”

Julie Smith , another classmate, said Kimmie was the kind of person you knew you could talk to in a tough time.

“It’s going to be hard letting go of her,” Smith said, raising her arms and voice. “Kimmie, we all love you, girl.”

Sarah Verhaaren , 16, remembered Kimmie’s smile and hugs. She read a poem she wrote for her friend that said, in part:

“The moon was her smile, the stars her eyes.

The warmth in her hugs made hearts sigh.

Kimmie Daily captured our hearts and refuses to leave.

We all love her so much, but from this pain there is no relief.”

Rogers counselor Mark Cooks-ley noted several educators from the Puyallup School District were in the church and wanted to speak but were too broken-hearted to come forward. He said Kimmie not only put a lot of work into her schooling but also into being friendly to other students.

“She would stop to say hi to you because you were a friend and someone she knew,” he said. “That was more important than getting to where she wanted to go.”

Edwards said the message he takes away from Kimmie’s life is the love her family and friends poured into her simply filled her up.

“And what goes in leaks out,” the pastor said.

Proof of that message was in the nine-minute video of Kimmie’s life. Still photos showed her from her birth to her junior prom and back again.

Her smile never wavered.

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