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First of bus crash victims laid to rest, others to follow

ELDORADO, Texas (BP)–At the first of several funerals for victims of a church bus crash in Louisiana, Jean Demere was remembered Oct. 16 as a Proverbs 31 woman who touched many lives in her town.

Demere was laid to rest in the small West Texas town of Water Valley after a service at First Presbyterian Church of San Angelo, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported.

The pastor described the service as less about death and more about birth into an eternal paradise, and he reminded the standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 that though Demere’s journey on earth has ended, her journey in heaven has just begun because Christ defeated death.

Neighbors remembered Demere’s annual invitations to her home for “Christmas in the Barn,” a warm celebration where the entire community was welcome, according to the Standard-Times.

Ron Sutto, First Presbyterian’s pastor, mentioned Demere’s appreciation of Rembrandt’s painting of “The Prodigal Son,” which depicts God embracing a young man.

“She always said, ‘I wish God would hold me like this, and everybody else,” Sutto said, according to the Standard-Times. “Now that reality has become fulfilled. We’re never out of sight. God loves us with a love that neither tongue nor pen can tell.”

Though Demere, 74, was not a member of First Baptist Church of Eldorado, Texas, she was friends with members of the church and was traveling with them on a 16-day trip to historic sites across the Southeast. Their bus rammed into a parked tractor-trailer on Interstate 20 in eastern Louisiana the morning of Oct. 13. Eight people were killed and seven, including the driver who fell asleep at the wheel, were injured.

Five funerals were planned for Oct. 17. Combined services for two married couples killed in the crash as well as one service for another member were to be held at First Baptist Church in Eldorado. Services for the remaining two victims were to be held the same day at St. Luke Methodist Church in San Angelo and at First United Methodist Church in Water Valley.

“It’s a pretty traumatic thing to go to funeral after funeral,” Andy Anderson, pastor of First Baptist, told the Associated Press. “We decided it would actually be the easiest thing to do in one day rather than spread it out over several days.”

Anderson said the funerals would be difficult for the entire close-knit Eldorado community of 2,000.

“Anytime we lose a member of the community, we mourn because we know them,” he told the Associated Press. “In this case, this bus accident represented our community. We had retired teachers, farmers, postal workers … and they’re the elders of our community.”

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