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Memorial service recalls life of a woman loved by many

Barbara Hefner once sat in the cockpit of a Fed Ex jumbo jet. She also enjoyed raising a family and spending cherished times with other family members and friends.

Additionally, she enjoyed working in her flower garden, drawing and painting, working with craft projects such as sewing and working to make her home as nice as she could make it.

She made her own wedding dress and made wedding dresses for others, too -- aside from working at various regular jobs in the area through the years.

Ms. Hefner's life was cut short at the age of 56. She was the victim of a brutal assault -- one in which she was sexually assaulted and later strangled to death. Her body was dumped into Folly Lake, off Stagecoach Road in McDuffie County on March 6, 2004.

Saturday night marked the sixth anniversary of her death -- a tragic ending to a person so deeply loved by her family and many friends.

Since that time, the man responsible for killing Ms. Hefner has been tried and convicted in McDuffie County Superior Court in Thomson. Dannie Lee Samuels, of Thomson, is now serving a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole.

About 65 family members and friends fondly remembered Ms. Hefner during a memorial service held at New Hope Baptist Church near Thomson last Saturday night. At least three local pastors also attended the service. They included the Rev. Alan Holbrook of New Hope Baptist Church, the Rev. Butch Baston of Old Union Baptist Church and the Rev. Keith Kurtz of Devine Community Church.

"We just wanted to get together and remember my Mama -- who she was, what she liked doing, etc." said her daughter, Mary Jane Hefner, who extended a warm welcome to those who attended the memorial service. "It really meant so much to me that so many people came out to remember her."

A slide show, put together by Michelle Ray, a local singer and Christian counselor at New Hope Baptist Church, provided those attending the memorial service a wide array of just who Ms. Hefner was and what her life was all about.

Later, Mrs. Ray recalled when Barbara Hefner became saved in Oct. 2002 during a presentation of Heaven's Gates, Hell's Flames , which is held annually at New Hope.

"Barbara gave her life to the Lord that night," said Mrs. Ray, pointing out that it was an honor to have had the opportunity to counselor her that night.

Just 18 weeks later, Ms. Hefner was dead.

As different slides were shown, songs such as Imagine by the late John Lennon and I Can Only Imagine were played. An assortment of photographs showed Ms. Hefner in different stages of her life.

"The last six years have been really, really hard years," said Ms. Hefner's daughter, noting that she had experienced anger, rage, etc., even though she is a born-again Christian.

On a lighter note, Mary Jane Hefner described her mother as a "hippie" during her younger years.

"She loved to draw and it reflected in who she was," said Mary Jane Hefner. "She loved Roses, but she had shame of thorns, too."

Mary Jane Hefner's memory of her mother culminated in a song she co-wrote with a friend, entitled A Single Drop of Rain . The song is about God "getting our attention."

Other songs were sung by Whitney Norris and Leslie Oliphant.

Paula Oliphant, one of Ms. Hefner's sister-in-laws, said Barbara "loved her siblings, her daughter and her husband."

She explained that she felt good knowing that Barbara had given her life to the Lord and that she now is in Heaven rejoicing with the Lord, along with one of her best friends, Teresa Renew, who lost her battle with cancer last year.

Mrs. Oliphant made a personal plea to those attending to become involved in a personal relationship with God, if they don't know Him.

"Find the Lord and have peace in Him," added Mrs. Oliphant.

Another sister-in-law of Ms. Hefner, Kathy Oliphant, said, "She always made me feel like a member of the family as soon as she found out that I married her brother, Billy. She taught me so much. I loved her."

Dianne Norris, Ms. Hefner's sister, recalled times when she and her sister played together as little girls, while growing up in Thomson.

"We were sisters and really good friends, too," said Ms. Norris.

The sisters loved shopping for bargains at yard sales.

"We'd always race to get to the best stuff," said Ms. Norris. "I remember her finding a new futon bed for $25 one time."

Prior to Barbara Hefner becoming a born-again Christian, Ms. Norris admitted that she had nagged at her sister about attending church.

"I told her I wanted her to have what I have," said Ms. Norris.

Web posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010

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