LONDON - More than 1,000 people gathered here yesterday to pay their final respects to Jonathan and Scarlett Parsley Hooker, who seemed made for each other but who died in the crash of Comair Flight 5191 on Aug. 27, only hours after they were married.
About 200 others came together not far away in Somerset for services for Hollie Ann Gilbert, another victim of Flight 5191 “who wanted to make sure everybody had fun.”
It was an emotional day all across this corner of southeastern Kentucky, and it was only the beginning.
Services are scheduled in London today for Michael Finley, another crash victim, who was Hollie Gilbert’s friend and employer. In addition to Finley, Gilbert and the Hookers, Marcie Thomason, 25, a crash victim from Lexington, had ties here. Her grandparents, William and Grace Thomason, are from London. Her funeral is also today, in Lexington.
In an area where many longtime residents know or are related to one another, so many deaths in the blink of an eye have left people in shock and looking for consolation.
Consider the Rev. Terry Gabbard. On Aug. 26, Gabbard married Jonathan Hooker and Scarlett Parsley in a joyous ceremony in Lexington. Yesterday, Gabbard was the principal speaker at their funeral. Gabbard also was Jonathan Hooker’s great uncle, and he knew both Michael Finley and Hollie Gilbert. He also knows Marcie Thomason’s family.
“I knew them all,” Gabbard said yesterday afternoon. “Never in my life have I ever seen devastation in this area like this.”
The city of London is planning a community memorial service for the victims Thursday night at 8 at the North Laurel High School baseball field (gates open at 7).
Each of the 49 victims of Flight 5191 had a special story, but none has struck a chord like that of Jonathan Hooker, 27, and Scarlett Hooker, 24. Jonathan Hooker was a fine athlete at London’s North Laurel High School and went on to play baseball at the University of Kentucky. Scarlett Hooker was a 2004 Centre College graduate who helped start a swim club in London. She was working on a master’s degree at UK.
Yesterday, their flag-draped double coffin sat at the front of London’s Corinth Baptist Church, while overhead video screens showed happy photographs from their wedding eight days ago. Many in the sanctuary wept silently.
“They were a couple that fit; God made them for each other,” the Rev. Tim Philpot said.
Gabbard recalled conducting the Hookers’ “perfect” wedding ceremony on Aug. 26, giving them one last hug that night at about 10. They planned to fly out of Lexington the next morning to go on their honeymoon.
It was, Gabbard told mourners, perhaps the happiest moment in the young couple’s lives. But barely eight hours later they were dead.
Finding an explanation for their deaths is hard, Gabbard said. But he told friends and family members to find hope, describing Jonathan and Scarlett as happy and free in heaven.
Former UK baseball coach Keith Madison, who coached Jonathan Hooker in college, praised the couple’s faith, and told those present that, through God’s forgiving power, they can see Jonathan and Scarlett again.
“This,” Madison said, “doesn’t have to be goodbye.”
Hollie Ann Gilbert, 34, was general manager of Finley’s Fun Centers -- owned by Michael Finley -- in London, Somerset and Danville. She was on her way to Reno, Nev., on a business trip with Finley, when Flight 5191 went down.
Finley’s Fun Centers offer skating and games for kids, and Gilbert saw to it that no child who came in failed to have fun, friends said at her funeral yesterday.
Longtime friend Chris Margrof said that Gilbert “would reach in her pocket and pull out her own money and let that kid play another round or two of games.”
Margrof recalled a “feisty” Gilbert, who put her all into everything she did, even if it was singing “an interesting rendition” of Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places at a karaoke bar.
“Hollie would never, ever, ever win American Idol,” Margrof said. “And if she were here right now, this is when I’d feel the sensation known as Hollie’s elbow. She loved to cut up.”
Most of all, friends remembered Gilbert as a woman bubbling with love for her teenage children, who were surrounded at the funeral yesterday by scores of broken-hearted friends.
“They’re doing better than I am,” Margrof said of Gilbert’s children. “I’ve never seen strength like that in young people. It lets me know she did her job well as a mother.
“To me, she had become like a bonus sister,” Margrof added. “I guess if I had to say it in just two words, ‘Hollie loved.’”
After they were pronounced man and wife on Aug. 26, Jonathan and Scarlett Hooker rolled away in style, in a white horse-drawn coach from the Lexington Livery Co.
Yesterday, the same horse-drawn coach joined the hearse in the funeral procession that left the London Funeral Home, moving slowly with hundreds of mourners following on foot. Two blocks away, the procession filed into the A.R. Dyche Memorial Park.
There, Jonathan and Scarlett Hooker were laid to rest, together in death as they had been only briefly in life.