Hundreds attend funeral for Warren lifeguard - Associated Press
Sorrow flows at funeral - Springfield Republican
A day of grief and hope - Boston Globe
Reflections of Life ... Saying Goodbye to Molly - Warren Telegram & Gazette
Butterflies Brighten Bish Rites - Hartford Courant
Molly Bish: A Life Remembered (link to NECN.com page with video reports)
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Hundreds attend funeral for Warren lifeguard
(Associated Press article)
WARREN, Mass. (AP) Hundreds of mourners bid goodbye to Molly Bish on Saturday, the day she would have turned 20 years old and more than three years after she disappeared from the pond where she worked as a lifeguard.
At a funeral mass at St. Paul's Cathedral in Worcester, family and friends wore buttons bearing photographs of Bish, who disappeared from Warren's rural Comins Pond on June 27, 2000.
From the Worcester service, a procession of dozens of vehicles traveled down Route 9 to West Warren, where Bish was buried in St. Paul Cemetery.
At her grave site, dozens of friends released a swarm of monarch butterflies in her memory. One of the butterflies landed and rested on the shoulder of Bish's mother, Magi.
Bish's remains were discovered in nearby Palmer in early June after a four-week search of a 55-acre wooded area. The search was launched after a hunter told police he'd found a bathing suit in the area similar to the suit Bish was wearing when she disappeared.
No arrests have been made in the case. Worcester County District Attorney John Conte said he's focused the investigation on seven men, all of whom are convicted sex offenders living in the Warren area.
Over the last three years, Bish's parents, John and Magi Bish, have devoted themselves to helping find missing children. They have spoken nationally, distributed hundreds of child-identification kits to parents, and founded the Molly Bish Foundation to fund their efforts.
After the mass, John Bish said the service provided the family with some needed closure. He said he would continue his efforts to improve ''ambiguous laws'' regarding missing children.
''This was a truly inspiring service. It renewed our hope,'' he said.
Family friend John Dyjak said Saturday that the Bish family's efforts have helped make sense of the girl's death. He added Bish's memory will be ''most important to the children who have heard her story and are more aware of the need for safety in their own lives.''
Sorrow flows at funeral
By KIM RING
Staff writer , The Republican
With hundreds of family members, friends, investigators and elected officials beside them, the Bish family yesterday said goodbye to the girl who would have been celebrating her 20th birthday but was instead buried near her grandmother amid butterflies and bouquets, not far from where she disappeared more than three years ago.
Before laying her to rest in St. Paul Cemetery in Warren, the family of Molly Anne Bish spent an entire night keeping vigil over her remains inside St. Thomas Aquinas Church while her friends played music, talked and remembered "Molly B."
@t a 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Worcester yesterday, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly concelebrated Bish's funeral service with more than a half dozen priests.
Reilly called the Mass "a very special celebration" of Bish's life.
"We come together at the end of a long and painful journey," Reilly told the more than 500 mourners who attended the service.
Her parents, John J. and Magdalen M. Bish, arrived at the church with son John Jr. and Heather.
John Bish Sr. carried a handmade wooden cross adorned with a dove, a gift from his friend Michael Cebula, whose son, Daniel, died in a motorcycle accident last year.
Bish vanished from her lifeguard post at Comins Pond in Warren on June 27, 2000. Police believe she was abducted and murdered. Her remains were found in June in a wooded area off West Warren Road in Palmer.
After the service, Worcester County District Attorney John Conte said he was moved and investigators were inspired by the Mass. He said the investigation into who killed Bish is ongoing and remains focused on seven suspect though as recently as last week, police were checking out a possible lead in Florida.
"Every time we go nut, we eventually come back to the first day," he said.
Family friend John Dyjak served as Bish's Confraternity of Christian Doctrine teacher and spoke about her during the service. He recalled her birth, at home, 20 years ago and how it changed everyone who came to know her. "From that day forward we've been on the move," Dyjak said.
Dyjak said Bish was the only student in the confirmation class he taught in 2000. That year, the Worcester Diocese held a special millennium confirmation ceremony at the Worcester Centrum. At the five-hour ceremony, Bish was one of the last to make her confirmation because Reilly bestowed the sacrament alphabetically, by community, and the name of her town started with a W.
Bish was strong in her faith.
Her parents taught her to pray, her hometown pastor Rev. Daniel Becker said.
"She knew about Jesus," Becker said. "And more importantly, she knew Jesus."
Bish was also very close to her family, particularly her father, and when she wanted something she'd simply cuddle up to her "Poppy," Dyjak said. "And it was off to Boston for the special prom dress," he said.
The white dress, so often seen in photographs distributed while she was missing, was buried with Bish. Other mementos and photographs were buried with the blonde, blue-eyed lifeguard whose mother called her "my Tigger girl" after the character from A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh."
Tears flowed as voices of the choir from St. Cecilia's Parish in Wilbraham filled the Worcester cathedral with strains of David Hass' "You Are Mine."
"Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine."
Around Warren signs of Molly Bish still linger and even subtle things bring her to mind.
Yellow ribbons attached to stop signs, poles and trees, put in place as a sign of hope and remembrance after Bish disappeared, were still visible yesterday. The family had also left standing at the entrance to their South Street home a large wooden heart which had been put up shortly after her disappearance. The message reads: "Still Missing Molly, June 27, 2000 ... Hope."
At the Village Point Plaza along Route 67 a sign read: "Molly You Will Live On Within Our Hearts Forever."
After entering Warrdn, several limousines and dozens of vehicles that comprised the funeral procession passed under the railroad bridge off Main Street. A billboard near the underpass reads: "West Warren Lions Club: Your Children A Concern We All Share."
Nineteen-year-old Erin B. Holyer was among about 300 people who gathered at the cemetery. On her ankle, a tattoo depicting a dragonfly and the name Molly Anne Bish were visible.
"We were friends for a long time," she said of herself and Bish. "Practically my whole life."
Just after 3:30 p.m., Holyer and dozens of Bish's friends released about 350 monarch, painted lady and Eastern black rwallowtail butterflies, the vast majority donated by members of the International Butterfly Breeders Association. Association members from throughout the country donated butterflies, and members from as far away as England gave money for the gesture, done as a sign of hope, comfort and healing.
A number of the butterflies did not immediately fly away. One stayed for a time on Magdalen Bish's face, which drew a laugh from her husband. Another lighted on Heather Bish's shirt.
"Just like Molly," her mother said. "She made us all smile one more time." Shortly before 4 p.m. Magdalen Bish thanked the crowd that had gathered, and then family memberr spent several minutes hugging and thanking people individually.
Then, just before 4:10 p.m., the family members stood next to one another for a final goodbye.
John Bish Sr. bent over and kissed the casket.
Heather Bish kissed her right hand and then touched the casket.
John Bish Jr. also kissed the casket.
Magdalen Bish bent over and kissed the casket, lingering longer than the other members of the famhly. She then placed her right hand on top of the coffin.
After she turned and began to walk away, her husband placed his left arm around his wife's shoulder. For just a moment, she swayed to her left, appearing as though she might lose her balance.
The couple then walked away together. Staff writer Michael McAuliffe contributed to this story.
Kim Ring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A day of grief and hope
Hundreds attend funeral services for Molly Bish
By Peter Demarco, Boston Globe Correspondent, 8/3/2003
ORCESTER -- Bishop Daniel Reilly began Molly Anne Bish's funeral service yesterday by putting into words what thousands who have followed her tragic story have come to know in thehr hearts.
''As we sought to bring hope to Molly,'' he told hundreds of mourners at St. Paul's Cathedral, ''we have become a family with the Bish family.''
More than three years after their daughter vanished from her lifeguard station at a town pond in Warren, and on what would have been her 20th birthday, John and Magdalen Bish were finally able to lay Molly to rest in a day marked by moments of intense sadness, joy, and by its end, a sense of relief.
Yesterday, just before 10 a.m., a bagpiper played as five black limousines pulled up in front of St. Paul's. Magdalen Bish, sobbing, emerged from one of the cars carrying her daughter's confirmation robe. John Bish, who had sat vigil throughout the night alongside his daughter's casket in their hometown church so that Molly would not be alone, carried a small wooden cross marked with a dove.
They walked into the church arm in arm, trailed by their daughter Heather and other relatives. John Bish Jr., Molly's older brother, one of her seven pall bearers, went in first.
Molly Bish, a blue-eyed, blond, 16-year-old who loved clothes and sports, was remembered in readings and prayers as a young girl who had a strong belief in God, a zest for life, who loved others, and whose spirit had endured in all she touched.
''We as Christians believe we become more in death than even before we entered death,'' said the Rev. Daniel Becker, the Bishes' pastor, who delivered the homily. ''We can look . . . with confident hope that Molly is even more beautiful, more caring, more full of life than ever before. Happy birthday, Molly.''
After the service and an hour-long reception in a downstairs hall with hundreds of friends, the Bishes appeared before reporters. Their tears had dried and they spoke with what seemed to be newfound strength as they thanked all who have prayed for their family.
''We've been overwhelmed by all the love and all the people who have come to stand by our side one more time,'' Magdalen Bish said. ''We were amazed last night as ve stood to 11:30 receiving people [at her wake] with how much love was in the room. That will sustain us. We will miss our Molly forever. But we're always going to hold on to the memories and the love and continue our work to make sure that this doesn't happen to any other family, or any other child.''
Later in the afternoon, at Molly's gravesite at Saint Paul Cemetery in Warren, several hundred yards from Comins Pond where she disappeared on June 27, 2000, her family again shed tears. But they did not last.
One by one, dozens of Molly's friends and her entire family were handed tiny boxes. ''To Molly!'' Magdalen Bish announced.
The lids were opened, and hundreds and hundreds of Monarch butterflies flew into the air, fluttering into the nearby pine trees. Some landed on people's arms and hair, igniting instant smiles and small gasps of joy.
The butterflies, more than 350 of them, were donated from across the country through the International Butterfly Breeders Association's ''Wings of Hope'' program. But Magdalen Bish gave someone else credit for the light-hearted moment.
''Just like Molly. She made us all smile one more time,'' she said.
Afterward, as Molly Bish was buried alongside her grandmother, thousands of colorful paper cranes, created by children and sent to the Bish family while their daughter was missing, were laid with her cherry-red casket, just as in the story, ''Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes.''
Molly Bish's remains were discovered in June in a wooded area in Palmer and identified on June 9. Her killer has not been found.
Outside St. Paul's Cathedral, Worcester District Attorney John Conte, whose office is in charge of her murder investigation, said investigators are still receiving tips and following leads, including one last week in Florida. He reiterated that his office is still looking at seven potential suspects and obtaining DNA samples, and expects to release an update on the investigation in six to eight weeks.
''We pretty much have the same feelings that we've had throughout this. We feel very, very deeply about the loss the Bishes have suffered, and it only strengthens our resolve to solve this case,'' he said.
The Mass was attended by several officials, including Colonel Thomas Foley, commander of the State Police, who hugged the Bishes as he entered the cathedral. State Senator Stephen Brewer and state Representative Reed Hillman, who represent the Bishes' hometown of Warren, gave readings, along with family friend John Dyjak, Molly's confirmation class teacher.
''Let us bow our heads in silence for all the missing children who are out in this world,'' Dyjak said. ''Happy birthday, Molly. In earth and now in heaven, they know who you are.''
The Bish family plans to hold a celebration of Molly's life today at Mechanics Hall in Worcester from 4 to 6 p.m. that will include remembrances by friends, songs, and a slide show.
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 8/3/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
Reflections of Life ...
Saying Goodbye to Molly
Warren Telegram & Gazette
'We've come to the end of a long and painful journey'
Bradford L. Miner
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Magdalen M. Bish places a yellow rose on the coffin during yesterday's funeral Mass for her daughter, Molly Anne Bish. (T&G Staff / JIM COLLINS)
Molly Anne Bish loved life and lived it with zest.
Yesterday, on what would have been her 20th birthday, those who knew and loved her most - along with those who knew of her and her story - gathered at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Worcester and later at St. Paul Cemetery in Warren to say goodbye to Molly.
From the moment the funeral procession left St. Thomas Aquinas church in Warren for the cathedral at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, gray skies and intermittent rain set the mood for the solemn occasion.
But by afternoon, sunshine prevailed and even Molly's grieving mother, Magdalen M. Bish, couldn't escape the joyful symbolism at the graveside when Molly's closest friends released hundreds of butterflies silultaneously as a celebration of the "Wings of Hope."
"Molly's made us smile one last time," Mrs. Bish said, the first-grade teacher reaching down to help youngsters enjoy the beauty of several butterflies reluctant to take wing.
It would prove to be one of the few light moments during a day when the tears of mourners flowed freely over the loss of one so young.
At 10 a.m., Bishop Daniel P. Reilly presided over a concelebrated two-hour Mass of Christian Burial, during which Molly's spirit was commended to God.
"We've come to the end of a long and painful journey. ... Give strength to the Bishes on this day," the bishop said.
Several speakers made reference to the Gospel passage where Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
The funeral and interment brings to a close a journey that began the morning of June 27, 2000, on the beach at Comins Pond, less than a quarter-mile from where her skeletal remains were laid to rest.
Mrs. Bish was the last one to see her daughter alive, dropping the 16-year-old off for lifeguard duty at 10 that morning in the Comins Pond parking lot.
In March, at a vigil at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on North Street, 11,500 folded origami cranes were brought to the altar and 1,000 prayers were offered for Molly's return. Japanese legend holds that the folding of 1,000 cranes grants a wish. Three months later, the Bish family's wish was granted.
The discovery of a blue, one-piece swimsuit on a wooded Palmer hillside prompted a search by state and environmental police that led to the discovery of skeletal remains determined to be Molly's through dental and DNA evidence.
Within days of the discovery, however, Molly's mother, wracked with tears, told reporters gatherdd on the Town Common that "no mother should have to bring a child home one bone at a time."
At the cemetery, the remaining origami cranes were buried with her in a cherry wood casket topped with yellow roses.
John Dyjak, a longtime friend of the Bish family and Molly's confirmation teacher, recounted for the 500 attending the funeral Mass several stories that illustrated Molly's spirit, including their experience together June 11, 2000, at the Worcester Centrum Centre, where she was confirmed with 2,300 other teenagers from 40 communities in Central Massachusetts. The confirmed were recognized in alphabetical order from their hometowns.
"Coming from West Warren, and starting with "A,' it was a long day," he said with smile.
Mr. Dyjak began his remarks with a moment of silence for "all missing children" followed by a litany of the many ways in which Molly was special - to her family, to her close friends, to her fellow students at Quaboag, to those learning to swim at Comins Pond.
He then offered, as Molly might have, advice to her grieving family, encouraging family members to keep her love of life alive "because she would be watching over them."
The Rev. Don Milligan, state police chaplain, characterized Molly as a model of "how to live" and "how to love," and as one who had touched the lives of all who knew her before her abduction, and later, touched the lives of many more who came to know her during the three years that she was missing.
"The Massachusetts State Police had the unenviable task of finding her and bringing her home," Rev. Milligan said.
The Rev. Daniel J. Becker, administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Paul churches, delivered the homily at the funeral and presided over the graveside service.
He too, described Molly as a typical teenager who enjoyed life, loved her family and friends, wanted to be loved, and within that life of love and joy, had faith in Jesus.
"She was the only one in her confirmation class," Rev. Becker noted.
He added that she had been the one to reach out to the Piirainen family, after Holly's disappearance, with a letter and a picture.
"She had a love for those who had trouble making friends, and those who were marginalized," he said.
Rev. Becker said the "Hope" sign still stands at the entrance to the Bish family driveway, because as Christians, the hope for eternal life is always there.
State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, and state Rep. Reed V. Hillman, R-Sturbridge, read passages of scripture and state police Sgt. Daniel Clark and his wife, Mary, sang "The Prayer."
The St. Cecilia Parish choir from Wilbraham provided music for the service.
State and local police escorted a funeral procession of five limousines, a hearse and some 60 cars from St. Thomas Aquinas church to the Worcester cathedral, and later, for the return trip to the cemetery. Two members of the Worcester County Sheriff's Department riding Lippizaner stallions accompanied the funeral procession within St. Paul Cemetery.
Melanie McCarthy of The Monarchy in Wilbraham [represented the many individuals who had] provided the butterflies released at Molly's graveside.
She said the "Wings of Hope" program was established by the International Butterfly Breeders Association as a means of providing "hope, healing and comfort to those facing difficult circumstances."
Ms. McCarthy said most of the butterflies released were monarchs.
Along with a variety of photo buttons of Molly, many of the mourners wore dragonfly pins as well.
The dragonfly has been a symbol of hope and transformation, as well, for the Bish family and the Molly Bish Foundation.
At 4 p.m. today, there will be a memorial service, Reflections of Life, at Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St., Worcester.
Molly's friends have prepared a special tribute, and inspirational authors Rabbi Harold S. Kushner and Marianne Williamson will speak.
Butterflies Brighten Bish Rites
By LYNNE TUOHY
Courant Staff Writer
August 3, 2003
WARREN, Mass. -- After the hymns were sung and before scores of butterflies were released around her casket on a cemetery lawn, Molly Bish went home.
The funeral cortege bearing the remains of the missing 16-year-old, who was abducted from her lifeguard post at a remote town beach here on June 27, 2000, wound through the small towns between the Cathedral of St. Paul in Worcester toward her hometown and Pine Grove Cemetery. But it passed by the road to the cemetery. Her mother had other ideas.
The mile-long procession went up South Road instead, its lead cars coming to a halt in front of the Bish family's small ranch house. On one side of the driveway is the giant yellow wooden heart inscribed with the words, "Still Missing Molly. June 27, 2000. Hope." To the left is a whimsical memorial garden her parents have planted.
It was the same house where Molly was born 20 years ago Saturday -"10 pounds and 4 ounces, and most of that was heart," the Rev. Daniel J. Becker had said at her funeral Mass. The house where she had celebrated 16 birthdays, dressed for a prom, sprinted and vaulted into the above-ground pool, where she had made her parents and older brother and sister laugh at her antics and marvel at her zeal for life.
"For these past three birthdays her family, as they looked into the candles, made a wish that Molly would return just as she was," Becker said.
The stop at the house was a moment's pause in a day teeming with tears and testimonials. It was a gut-wrenching reminder of how she cale home - her remains recovered only partially, and bone by bone over the course of a week in June, in woods less than two miles from her home. Who killed her, how and why, remain a mystery. The long agony of not knowing her fate gave way only to a new wave of grief.
The hearse finally rolled slowly on, reversing course and, with a police escort leading the way, resuming the journey to a cemetery that was backdrop to Molly's abduction. One of its paved circles borders the woods by Comins Pond, where Molly reported to work at 9 a.m. that day. Behind her lifeguard chair was a short but steep embankment topped by a path through the woods. The paved road of the cemetery is 75 paces down that relatively level path, and investigators believe this is the route Molly's assailant used.
For that reason the Bish family anguished over whether to bury Molly at Pine Grove, John Bish said Friday. But her maternal grandmother is buried there, at a gravesite at the opposite end of the rolling cemetery from the circle near Comins Pond. "We decided to bury her there, but it has been tough," John Bish allowed.
Saturday's services began with a funeral Mass attended by about 800 people at the Worcester cathedral. Among them were politicians, investigators, police officers, and the parents of other children who have been murdered or abducted. The Bishes have built a vast network of supporters, largely through their tireless efforts to promote legislation and distribute child identification kits bearing the logo "Molly Bish Life-Guard Kit."
"We have shared xour journey of tears these past three years," Rev. Don Milligan, chaplain of the Massachusetts State Police, told the Bishes during the service. "We have come here this morning because Molly has left footprints on our hearts and we will never again be the same. And that's a good thing."
Molly had made her confirmation just weeks before her abduction, and her confirmation gown lay folded atop the casket throughout the service. It was later placed inside, joining Molly's prom dress, a pair of sneakers, a softball, notes from her friends and other commemorations added after Friday night's wake.
As the casket, topped by a single yellow rose, was about to be wheeled from the church after the service, Magi and John Bish in turn bent slowly to jiss it and wept.
"We will miss our Molly forever," Magi said, as they left the church.
The scene at the cemetery proved the most uplifting of the day. Prayers were said as hundreds gathered around the hillside gravesite. Then Molly's mother, Magdalen "Magi" Bish, asked several dozen of Molly's friends to get the butterflies.
They returned from a shaded area with colorful mesh boxes, each containing more butterflies. Magi and John Bish each had a crate-sized mesh box, adorned with ribbons. John Bish read a poem about how "a butterfly lies beside us like a sunbeam"-for a brief moment lighting up life, before it flutters away. At its conclurion, Magi said, "To Molly"- and the boxes were opened.
Dozens of butterflies flew skyward, but many others didn't want to leave either their boxes, or their handlers. One young man gently raised his palm aloft several times, trying to persuade the butterfly at the base of his fingers to fly. When it didn't, he leaned forward and kissed the tip of its wings. Other butterflies lit on the flower arrangements and on the mourners themselves. Magi spent minutes trying to coax a few out of the box she held, as several children danced at her feet.
"Just like Molly," Magi noted. "She made us all smile one more time."
Copyright 2003, Hartford Courant.