The sky over the Hadley town park filled with balloons Sunday afternoon.
There were just a few at first, then scores of green and purple orbs floating at once up into the gray. Many carried scrawled messages like “rest in peace” and “we’ll miss you.”
“The balloons are meant to carry up to heaven all the things we didn’t get a chance to say to her in person,” said 18-year-old Emily Heald.
She and fellow Hadley-Luzerne High School Key Club member Olivia Austin, 17, organized a Sunday vigil for Patricia Burns, a 42-year-old woman stabbed to death in her Lake Luzerne apartment Christmas Eve.
According to officials at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Patricia’s estranged husband, Clifford Burns, a Niskayuna resident, carried out the stabbing, injuring Patricia’s 22-year-old daughter, Megan Jenkins, in the process.
Clifford Burns was arrested that night after a brief chase and charged with second-degree murder.
Less than a week after the incident, more than 100 people gathered in Sam Smead Memorial Park to mourn Patricia’s death. Teenage friends of Patricia’s children hunched against the cold. Members of the Crazy Train Riders Club ringed the group, attending out of respect, one member said, for the victim, who had been a friend of the motorcycle club.
Family members asked not to be approached by media during the grieving process, but Jenkins was visible and apparently able-bodied at the center of the crowd along with her little sisters, Harley, 15, and Autumn 14.
“I only met her a few months ago,” said Mary Jane Bevan, “but she was an angel.”
Burns worked as a caregiver for Community Hospice in Saratoga County. Two months ago she started caring for Bevan’s 91-year-old father, Wallace Kipfer, who has congestive heart failure.
“She brought so much joy to our family,” Bevan said. “She treated us like we were special. She was gentle with my father. Now he’ll have to get used to someone new.”
A few others stepped out into gaps in the crowd to talk about Burns. Austin read poems by the Burns daughters.
As drizzle turned to sleet, the crowd let loose the balloons. Family members lit tissue-paper floating lanterns, then sang “Amazing Grace.”
The Burns family has a history of grief-filled Christmases, according to Austin. Burns moved her children to Lake Luzerne in 2009. Austin said Christalin, Burns’ 15-year-old daughter, wanted to join the Key Club, but never got the chance.
“She died unexpectedly in her sleep, Dec. 27, 2010,” Austin said, “before she could join.”
Heald, Austin and Christalin Burns were all friends for that one year. After Christalin died, family and friends set dozens of balloons free to cope with the loss. For the next two years the Key Club ended its Christmas caroling route by singing “Amazing Grace” in front of the Burns home.
Austin said it was a way to prop the family up during a time of grief. Sunday, the community inducted Patricia into that tradition.
“This area is tight,” Heald said. “We’re not just a few towns. We’re a family. We’ll get them through this together.”
Austin said Harley and Autumn Burns are staying with friends in the area.
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