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Flowers and tears fill tribute to slain girl and her mother

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Sacred Hearts Academy students Felicia Cazares, left, and Tiare Sadarananda perform a dance to "Heaven" at a memorial for Kristine and Saundra Cass, who were shot by Kristine's ex-boyfriend Clayborne Conley in a double murder-suicide.
  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    A photo of the Casses.
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Members of the Sacred Hearts Academy class of 2015 wore pink and red carnations and rosebuds on their ears in memory of classmate Saundra Cass yesterday during a poignant memorial to mourn the loss of the 13-year-old and her mother, Kristine.

There were lots of tears, but song, dance and gaiety, too, as students, teachers and friends of the Cass family gathered to mark the lives of a model student and a doting mother who touched people with their kindness, their joy for life — and their love for one another.

"I know that at times like this when we are challenged deeply … there are certain questions that arise (like), ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’" said Clarence Liu, a member of the Sacred Hearts Academy board of directors and Hospice Hawaii chaplain.

"There are no simple answers."

He added, "God … didn’t say that life would always be fair. All He said was, ‘I will be with you.’"

MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP

A memorial scholarship for Kristine and Saundra Cass has been set up at Sacred Hearts Academy.

Donations can be made by check to the school, located at 3253 Waialae Ave., Honolulu, HI 96816.

Call the school at 734-5058.

 

Kristine Cass, 46, and her daughter, Saundra, were fatally shot Aug. 20 in their home by Clayborne Conley, 43, Cass’ ex-boyfriend, in a tragedy that has rocked the tightknit Sacred Hearts community.

A Kristine and Saundra Cass memorial scholarship has been set up at Sacred Hearts, and its first recipient — a classmate of Saundra’s — was awarded $1,000 at the gathering yesterday.

The school will also plant a kukui tree on campus Friday in honor of the mother and daughter on what would have been Saundra’s 14th birthday.

"Kukui nut … is the symbol of light and of healing," White told students yesterday, pointing to the tree, in a pot at the front of the gym where the memorial and Mass were held.

The tree was placed behind a table that held photos of Kristine Cass and her daughter, lei and vases of yellow, pink and red roses.

The memorial began with a rendition of "My Favorite Things," a nod to one of Saundra’s greatest joys: the theater. Saundra played "Marta" in a 2008 production of "The Sound of Music" at Saint Louis School.

Later at the memorial, two Sacred Hearts students performed a contemporary dance to the 1980s ballad "Heaven."

One of the dancers represented Saundra, the other her mother. The song came to a close — Bryan Adams drawing out, "We’re in heaven," to a whisper — with both girls in a peaceful repose on the floor.

Few eyes were dry. Even one of the dancers was crying.

In addition to the students who assembled, about 30 friends of the family attended the memorial. They wore black kukui nut lei, with small placards that read "In loving memory" and had a photo of the Casses.

Many said it felt right to remember the two at Sacred Hearts, where the mother and daughter spent so much time, made so many friends and made such a big impression.

"Sacred Hearts is a special school," said Laura Bingaman, who lived next to the Cass family. The memorial showed "they were so well-loved and honored."

Mike Browning, chairman of the Sacred Hearts board of directors, said students are getting through the tragedy thanks to lots of support from the school and one another.

Counselors were on hand yesterday in case students needed to talk, and kids were getting a good number of encouraging hugs from teachers and parents.

"You see that sense of community," Browning said, "that coming together."

 

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