FREDERICK -- Leslie Pearre's voice quivered as she stood in front of hundreds of people gathered at Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Frederick yesterday to remember the Howard County woman and her three children who were slain Thanksgiving Day.
Pearre taught Gail L. Pumphrey's eldest child, David Brockdorff, 12, last year at Urbana Middle School in Frederick and was moved by the number of children who attended the funeral.
She told them she was proud that so many of them had come.
At that moment, many of the children began to cry. Some parents wrapped their arms around them, held their hands or kissed them.
Police say David P. Brockdorff, 40, fatally shot Pumphrey, his ex-wife, and their children and then killed himself in Unity Park in Montgomery County. Pumphrey was there to hand over the children to Brockdorff for a Thanksgiving visit.
Pumphrey's "whole purpose in life was to love, care for and protect her children," read the Rev. Albert K. Lane III from a letter written by Janet Blackburn, Pumphrey's sister. "She had more courage and strength than anyone I have ever known."
White roses and crosses rested atop four closed, white caskets with gold trim. Behind them, on easels, were framed photographs of the Brockdorff children - David, Brandon, 7, and Megan, 10 - and Pumphrey, 43. Helium balloons with the logos of the New England Patriots - David's favorite football team - and the Disney movie High School Musical floated nearby.
Colorful banners signed by fellow students - "In Memory of David Brockdorff" - hung from the church's balconies.
During the hourlong service, Lane, pastor at the church's Urbana campus in Frederick County, where Pumphrey was a member, read letters from several relatives.
Blackburn, in her letter, recalled a time her sister took her inside a fort the children built in the family's backyard. She called the Pumphrey's home the "hub of the neighborhood." Blackburn remembered when the family attended the Patriots' training camp in July.
She described David as a "perfectionist" who started his homework as soon as he got home from school, aspired to be a sports announcer and asked for "a college fund" for Christmas last year. Megan was a "tomboy" who had a beautiful smile, and Brandon was "the cool dude," who once got his hair cut in a Mohawk design and wanted to have an ear pierced, Lane read.
Several of Pumphrey's co-workers, flight attendants at US Airways, attended the service dressed in uniform.
Speakers included principals Rick Wilson of Glenwood Middle School and Jayne Diggs of Lisbon Elementary School, who read remembrances from the children's classmates. The Brockdorffs had attended Howard County schools since the fall after Pumphrey moved from Frederick County to Woodbine in western Howard.
David Brockdorff "was a bright kid," said Frank Vetter, principal of Urbana Middle School, after the service. "At times he had this infectious giggle about him. He was naturally inquisitive about life in general."
Pumphrey and her children were buried in Marriottsville.