Theresa Lockhart remembered at funeral as ‘awesome’ friend and sister

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Jen Zimmerman told the crowd at Saint Joseph Catholic Church Monday that her friend Theresa Lockhart was “awesome” person. They’d been friends since their days at Aquinas College, and she reminisced about their love of poetry, board games and taking frequent trips to art exhibits.

“I don’t think she knew the gift of laughter she brought the night we watched Napoleon Dynamite,” she said. Zimmerman said she was battling depression at the time, and the laughter helped her get through it.

Once they left college, they mainly kept in contact over the phone. Zimmerman shared about their last conversation.

“She asked me to pray for her during our last phone call the day before she died,” said Zimmerman delivering the eulogy. Friends and family sat in the pews and listened as Zimmerman spoke.

Lockhart's body was found a few weeks ago in a wooded area in Allegan County, several months after she was first reported missing in May. The Portage Police Department immediately named her husband Christopher Lockhart a person of interest after they said he wasn’t cooperating with the investigation. Then, on October 24, after failing to check in with a local  corrections center due to unrelated charges, he was found dead in his home, He left behind a suicide note which detailed where he buried her body.

“It was a tragedy,” said Theresa's half sister Joan Mullowney. “I don’t think Chris ever meant to [kill her]. It wasn’t intentional.”

Mullowney organized her sister’s funeral. She said it was nerve wracking for her, but she was touched by all the people — friends, family, co-workers, students — who showed their support.

“She touched a lot of lives,” said Mullowney during an interview after the funeral. “I mean, she probably never realized how much her presence in people’s lives affected them.”

Kellie Yunginger said she felt a personal connection to Lockhart and her family. Several times she led a team of search-and-rescue volunteers looking for Theresa through the woods and lakes around Portage. She kept Joan updated along the way.

“We definitely had hoped from the very beginning this would be different,” said Yunginger, whose cousin Richard Hitchcock went missing decades ago. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t, and it was a very sad ending. However, we are truly being able to say goodbye to Theresa this morning, which not every one gets that opportunity.”

Yunginger wore a red ribbon with a picture of Theresa, which she got it the night Theresa’s running friends held a memorial run. She got one for Joan in the hope of meeting her one day. Monday, they met for the first time.

“I think that we have a very significant bond with each other,” said Yunginger. “I’m very happy I got to know her. I wish it wasn’t under these circumstances.”

Friends and loved ones comforted each other throughout the funeral.

A fellow teacher who worked at Schoolcraft wrote a poem called Theresa's Light, which was read to the crowd. Mullowney said she appreciated it. She said she is now focused on forgiving Christopher. Forgiveness is preventing her from growing bitter, she said, and allowing her to cherish every day with her family, which is her message to others.

“Just remember that tomorrow may never come,” said Mullowney with tears in her eyes.  “Stay close to your family.”

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