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St. Stephen’s holds first two funeral services after church shooting

Remembering the victims of the Saint Stephen's church shooting
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 9:08 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church held funeral services on June 22 for two of their own killed by a gunman during a potluck dinner on June 16.

84-year-old Walter Rainey and 75-year-old Sarah Yeager were laid to rest, and though their ceremonies were separate, there was a common theme: neither Walter Rainey nor Sarah Yeager’s lives could be summed up in just a few short minutes, but their lives were a gift to all who knew them.

“Poppa was a giant in our lives.”

Warner Thompson stood sandwiched between his brother, Nat, and sister, Lily, braving the task of delivering fond memories of their grandfather Walter Bartlett Rainey.

The 84-year-old was shot and killed, along with 75-year-old Sarah Sharon Yeager, and 84-year-old Jane Pounds at St. Stephen’s Church during a potluck dinner Thursday night.

“Our family will miss Poppa very dearly as will many of you, but unexpectedly this has become a hopeful moment for our family and for everybody in this church today. You know, a single, senseless, evil act has been drowned out and really and really among hundreds and hundreds of acts of kindness in the aftermath,” Thompson said.

Rainey’s younger brother, Tuffy, had just spoken to his brother the night before he died.

The two were close.

Tuffy prided himself on his ability to make his big brother laugh.

Now he struggles with fact that he’ll never hear his laughter again.

“Bart was…if not the best friend, one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. A brother I can’t describe. I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss him, but I pray that the lessons he taught me about how to live and how to die, I’ll never forget,” Rainey said.

A private burial service was held for Sarah Sharon Yeager on June 22.

Loved ones later gathering in the nave of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church to pay their respects.

“She exuded love; God’s love,” said Associate Rector for Pastoral Care & Liturgy at St. Stephen’s, Rev. Katherine Harper.

“Sharon was not alone when she ascended with the angels and the Holy Spirit will not leave us empty,” Rev. Harper said.

Funeral services for Jane Pounds will be held on June 23 at 11 a.m. In the Nave at St. Stephen’s with a reception immediately following.

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