One friend said that Rachael Westberg always brought a banana as a gag gift when they had a sleepover.
Another said Rachael once gave her a raw potato on a stick. And a classmate remembered a time she drove around town with a plate and a frozen pizza taped to her steering wheel for a video project.
Flanked by a unicorn-themed wreath and resting in a casket painted with Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Rachael, 16, was mourned by family and friends Thursday.
Rachael died Jan. 25 from injuries sustained when she was struck by a vehicle while jogging. Juan Luis DeLeon, 21, of Killeen, is charged with driving the vehicle that hit Rachael and fleeing the scene.
Thursday’s funeral was held at Temple Bible Church and Rachael was buried in North Belton Cemetery. The Rev. Gary DeSalvo told those present to think of the service as a celebration of life.
“And I’ll tell you why — first of all, because heaven rejoiced when Rachael took her last breath,” DeSalvo said. “Although Rachael’s years may have been few, she is precious in the sight of the Lord and heaven rejoiced when she came. Secondly, it’s proper because that’s what Rachael would have desired.”
DeSalvo said that the memories that loved ones have of Rachael are joyful.
“I’ve sat with Rachael’s family this past week,” he said. “We cried, but we laughed even more. ... We laughed as we reflected on Rachael’s life; we laughed as we reflected on the type of woman she was.”
Rachael was a student at Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow, and about half of the mourners were fellow New Tech students. Later in the service, microphones were passed around to allow others among the several hundred people in attendance to add their memories as well.
“It’s only proper that we praise God, that we celebrate Rachael’s life,” DeSalvo went on. “We celebrate today because Rachael knew Christ as her savior. ... (But) we do mourn, ... we come here to comfort you, and we mourn along with you.”
Members of Rachael’s immediate family did not speak, but they did write out their memories about her to be read at the service.
“Rachel was a beautiful girl, but more importantly, a beautiful soul,” her mother Kristi Westberg wrote. “She had a way of making you feel OK even if you didn’t think you were. ... Although she was my daughter, most importantly, she was my friend, and my heart longs to hear her laughter.”