The Examiner

Pleasantville Remembers the Liu Family at Prayer Vigils

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By Abby Luby and Martin Wilbur

Parishioners and community members filled Emanuel Lutheran Church in Pleasantville Sunday evening during one of the vigils in the village to help local residents heal and to remember the Liu family.

Community members packed Emanuel Lutheran Church in Pleasantville Sunday evening, one of five community-wide services and prayer vigils to mourn the Liu family and attempt to make sense of how the tragedy could have happened.

Emanuel Lutheran’s service also included an inspiring handbell concert by 22 members of the Emanuel Ringers and the Katonah Celebration Ringers of the First Presbyterian Church of Katonah. The two groups had been previously scheduled to perform a concert at the church.

There were community members who also attended vigils at Holy Innocents, Pleasantville Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Pleasantville Community Synagogue. The services were interspersed with music and prayer.

A soft but reverberating bell rang out after Emanuel Lutheran Pastor Roger Berner called out the name of each Liu family member. Berner recited a short prayer where he thanked God “for giving them to us.”

The Dec. 5 murder-suicide by the family’s father, Chuan-Kai, who went by the name Tom, at the Liu’s house on Romer Avenue, took the lives of his wife Dorothy Liu and their two children, Tennyson, 7, and four-year-old Adeline.

At each house of worship, short statements from the Liu’s extended family and the family of Dorothy and the children were read by a member of each church’s clergy.

“There are no words to describe how painful and difficult this time has been for our family,” the first statement read in part. “Amid our incredible suffering, we know that the Pleasantville community is also suffering. We have seen how you have embraced our family members as your own while they lived in the community and that you too are in pain and we thank you for your compassion.”

The family thanked the entire community for helping them through the tragedy, and in particular Police Chief Erik Grutzner and the Pleasantville Police Department; Mayor Peter Scherer and his colleagues; Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter; Bedford Road School Principal Peggy Galotti; and the groups of teachers, counselors and community members who went out of their way to help those in need and respect the wishes of the family.

Pastor Debra Bronkema of the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church said during the past week community members have stopped at her church hoping to understand what could have sparked the horrific turn of events.

“People have come by to talk,” Bronkema said. “This church has a lot going on. People just come by and talk.”

Emanuel Lutheran Church Deacon Barbara Meberg, who helps oversee the Pleasantville Hill Nursery School spoke about Adeline, the youngest child, who attended classes there.

“Adeline always had a cheerful smile, she was smart, kind and happy and a good friend,” Meberg said. “Adeline, we will remember your joyful smile.”

Meberg later said Adeline’s classmates have been receiving strong support from staff in helping them deal with her sudden absence.

Music was the centerpiece at several of the vigils. At Pleasantville Presbyterian Church, pianist Evan Closser played selections between the prayer and poem readings.

At Emanuel Lutheran, the handbell players offered selections that were uplifting as many listened attentively while holding small lit candles. The music was soft and peaceful but a few selections were more upbeat.

Seasonal songs were sung by most of the audience, but some remained silent. Interspersed between selections were quotes read by the handbell choir members. One read, “Music expresses that which cannot remain silent and that which cannot be put into words.”

One longtime Emanuel Lutheran parishioner said the hour-long vigil was therapeutic and uplifting in a time of need.

“It’s wonderful to see all these young people playing the bells,” said Kathleen Koran. “This music is very soothing and it’s the perfect thing to bring together a community that has been traumatized.”

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