Created on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 Written by JOEL E. MAST
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J.P. Davis has known Tiffany Brown all of her life.
“I was there the day she was born,” he said Tuesday outside the Bellefontaine First Church of God during scheduled visitation.
Mourners line the aisle of the sanctuary in the Bellefontaine First Church of God, 1000 E. Brown Ave., during Tuesday’s visitation for Tiffany Brown. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | JOEL E. MAST
He recalled her as happy and energetic throughout her life — a hard-working girl who responded well to loving teases from her friends and family.
Mr. Davis was raised as a son by the late William Brown, Ms. Brown’s grandfather. He has been part of the family since and was the slain woman’s neighbor for the past year.
He has been hesitant to talk about Ms. Brown, whom he viewed as a niece.
“I’m getting choked up now thinking about her,” he said. “When my boys start to talk about it, I have to leave the room.
“One of my sons said, ‘I’ve never seen you cry before.’ I told him, ‘Sometimes men cry.’ ”
Both Mr. Davis and his wife, Teresa, said the past year helped them grow closer to Ms. Brown and her two sons, Gage and Gavyn Heitman.
“It was awesome,” said Mrs. Davis.
She often tagged along for Mr. Davis’ softball games and would walk Mrs. Davis’ son to the school bus.
“He’s torn up by this,” Mrs. Davis said of her son.
During the summer ballpark outings, Mrs. Davis said Ms. Brown would cheer for the team and talk of her hopes.
“She’d say, ‘I just want me and my boys to be happy,’ ” Mrs. Davis recalled.
“I don’t understand why this happened to her,” Mr. Davis said.
Fighting the chill, the couple headed back into the church as mourners continued to arrive.
In all, around 1,500 people passed through Tuesday.
Visitors filed past the 26-year-old’s open casket, as her mother, father and other family members hugged and greeted guests in the sanctuary, Springfield News-Sun’s Staff Writer Lawrene Calder Trump wrote of the six-hour viewing.
Visitors signed two guest books, one for each side of the family, and quietly shuffled past photo collages and bouquets, concrete garden memorials, knit throw blankets and other gifts lining both sides of the carpeted hallway.
Ms. Brown’s mother, Deborah Ashcraft Neeley, embraced guest after guest as a slide show above the church’s altar flashed snapshots of her daughter’s life. Nearly every photo had Ms. Brown cheek-to-cheek with family and friends, here in a prom dress, there as a toddler clutching a Pooh bear by the Christmas tree, but always grinning broadly, her large almond-shaped eyes looking directly into the lens.
Taped piano hymns wafted through the church as mourners arrived in jeans and work shirts, hospital scrubs and uniforms, Ms. Calder reported.
Today, funeral services were to start at 11 a.m. with burial to follow in Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Gage & Gavyn Heitman Fund, P.O. Box 199, Lewistown, Ohio 43333.
Click on images to see more photos from the viewing.