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Hundreds celebrate memory of Petaluma teen

  • Kevin Byrne, Alyssa Byrne's father, welcomes family, friends and supporters to a memorial service for Alyssa at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, Calif. on January 12, 2013. (Photo by Alvin Jornada for The Press Democrat)

Alyssa Byrne was remembered Saturday as a gifted athlete with a wisecracking wit and illuminating smile; a kid so fiercely competitive that she was kicked out of her final high school lacrosse game.

"She's probably picking a lacrosse fight up there right now," her father Kevin Byrne told a crowd of hundreds that packed into the Casa Grande gymnasium Saturday to remember the 2011 graduate.

Alyssa Byrne, 19, was found dead Jan. 4 in South Lake Tahoe after apparently taking a wrong turn while walking alone in subzero temperatures from a New Year's music festival.

Alyssa Byrne Memorial

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Kevin Byrne, who repeatedly thanked the community for their support both during the search for his missing daughter and in the days after her body was found, urged people to look out for each other and always maintain a buddy system.

Friend Ashley Jones addressed the crowd, many of whom were wearing pink in Byrne's honor, and asked everyone to raise their right hand and repeat after her: "I promise to never let myself or anyone I love leave in an unfamiliar place without a buddy system."

Mariah Harvey, a childhood friend, wrestled aloud with the the question that seemed to be on the minds of many.

"How could this happen to this girl who was so happy and full of life?" she said through tears.

Michelle Miller, Byrne's first-grade teacher at Bernard Eldredge Elementary School, stood with her colleagues who taught Byrne in kindergarten through sixth grades. Miller recalled the "firecracker" with an ever-present backward baseball cap who so revered her older brother Greg as a youngster that she often dressed in his clothes.

"We never ever, ever, ever saw her in a dress until sixth grade promotion," Miller said.

If there was a ball, she was bouncing it. If there was a game, she was in it. And, occasionally, if there was a wrestling match or dust-up, she might have started it, friends recalled.


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