Tallmadge -- A simple story followed by a verse from the Bible. That's how The Rev. David Zachrich, pastor of Tallmadge Lutheran Church, was to begin the memorial service Sept. 28 for double homicide victims Wendy Ralston and her son, Peyton.
Marie Ralston, Wendy's mother, was expected to read prepared remarks that focused, in part, on how much she misses her daughter and grandson.
Between a short visitation with the family and the memorial service, Zachrich, on behalf of the family, spoke about Wendy and Peyton and how they are being remembered.
The family requested days before the service that no media cameras be permitted inside, and shortly before the service began, Tallmadge Police said the family chose not to have reporters attend the service at all.
"It's a difficult time so if I waver a little I'm sorry for that," Zachrich told reporters before the service from the area police designated for media between the church and Tallmadge Recreation Center.
He has known Wendy's parents, Marie and her ex-husband, Bill, for about 20 years. His daughter played soccer with Wendy, and Wendy's daughter, Alexis, an eighth grader, is in his confirmation class at the church.
Marie and Bill have been raising Alexis at their home in Tallmadge, Zachrich said.
He said it has been difficult for Alexis to lose her mother.
"And the little guy, Peyton, was just grandma and grandpa's joy and delight," Zachrich said. "He played Wiffle Ball all the time in the backyard with grandpa, drove those little Matchbox cars and trucks all over.
"And they said the key part they miss the most about Wendy is that she had an infectious laugh, just a delightful, happy lady. Peyton carried that on. But as we sat the other night, that's all stopped. And I'll miss her very much," he continued.
Zachrich said that Bill is sad he'll no longer take Peyton shopping, something they enjoyed.
"So there's a lot of sadness in the family," Zachrich said.
He said the family is appreciative of the work police are doing to solve Wendy and Peyton's murder cases.
"They are looking for resolution, very much, and when that happens, that will be a relief and a joy for us as well," Zachrich said.
Marie also was supposed to speak at the service about how her family appreciates the support the community has shown.
"They're so grateful for the prayers of so many people. Meals have been dropped off at home, expressions of kindness," Zachrich said. "They're very grateful for each and all of those things."
Given the circumstances, the family is doing well, he said.
"They're a strong family. The other night when we met, we were everywhere from tears to laughter and silliness," he said.
According to Lt. Ron Williams, public information officer for the police department, a "steady stream" of people came to the calling hours at Donovan Funeral Home Sept. 27.
A private burial was scheduled to take place on a later date.
Tallmadge Lutheran Church continues to collect money to help the family pay for funeral expenses. To date, the church has collected about $6,000, according to Zachrich.
Donations also can be made to the Ralston Family Memorial Fund at any First Merit Bank branch.
Contact this reporter at 330-541-9428 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Holly Schoenstein, Record Publishing Co.