LINWOOD — Almost a month after April Kauffman died, about 150 people gathered on the bike path Saturday night to light candles and recount their memories of her.
The candlelight vigil drew people from around the region who sought “Justice for April,” the title of fliers handed out to people who attended.
The vigil was organized and led by Lee Darby, 57, Kauffman’s longtime friend, who told the assembled group that other supporters in 19 countries were also lighting candles in her memory at the same time. Darby said, “She’s a special lady.”
Kauffman was an area radio host, grandmother and advocate for veterans who died of multiple gunshot wounds in her bedroom on the morning of May 10. There have been no arrests in the weeks since.
At the front of the crowd Saturday, a park bench held lit tea candles and a collage poster that showed things that reminded people of Kauffman: pictures of her nestled alongside those of a parrot, a Corvette and a butterfly.
On a table nearby, people signed a guest book under a poster labeled “Justice for April.”
After Darby briefly spoke, Roseann Gazzara, of Hammonton, walked to the microphone and sang the first few lines of “Proud to be an American” and was joined by the rest of the crowd who sang the printed lyrics on the back of the fliers.
Pausing briefly to say, “She was someone who loved her country and loved all of us,” Gazzara continued with “Amazing Grace.”
Kauffman’s daughter Kimberly Pack then tearfully thanked the crowd. Pack said until her death, she had no idea that her mother had touched so many people’s lives.
Others followed with stories of their own.
Marco Polo Smigliani, 64, of Egg Harbor Township, was the first of several people to recount Kauffman’s work with veterans. He said, “I guess some people are destined to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Cari B. Thomas, of Washington, D.C., also spoke of Kauffman’s veterans work, saying “her life and legacy will not be lost after what she gave to us.”
Dawn Schurig, 46, of Absecon, said she had been a childhood friend of Kauffman’s, reuniting recently after years of separation.
“She is a beautiful person, inside and out,” Schurig said. “I hope people remember her for her heroic life, and not for her horrific death.”
Kauffman’s husband, James Kauffman, attended, but did not address the crowd.
He stood toward the middle, away from the speakers, in a knot of several other people. When a reporter approached him, a woman stepped in between them and interrupted them. She did not give her name.
Steve Gilroy, 28, attended with his friend Robyn Sobel, 26. Gilroy, who lives in Galloway Township, is a former U.S. Navy sailor and past president of the Student Veterans’ Organization at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. He had worked with Kauffman and had talked to her within days of her death.
“I just saw her like the Friday before,” Gilroy said. “Her passing was such a shock.”
Both Gilroy and Sobel held “Justice for April” fliers. To Sobel, of Galloway Township, “justice” meant finding the culprit.
“I’d just like to think that they’ll find her murderer,” Sobel said.
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