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Slain reporter's life remembered, celebrated

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Sara Lee Greenhalgh, center, mother of slain journalist Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh, holds the hand of Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr., rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, following her daughter's memorial service Friday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Police direct traffic outside Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville prior to the memorial service for slain journalist Sarah Greenhalgh at noon Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

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A mourner leaves for the parking lot following the memorial service for slain journalist Sarah Greenhalgh outside Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville Friday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Mourners gather outside Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville Friday prior to the memorial service for slain journalist Sarah Greenhalgh. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Mourners leave the memorial service for slain journalist Sarah Greenhalgh on Friday outside Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville. Rich Cooley/Daily


By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

Friday's memorial service for slain Winchester Star reporter Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh was billed as a celebration of her life, and that is exactly what it was.

Eleven days after Greenhalgh, 48, was found dead in her burned-out Upperville home, the photojournalist was eulogized by her sister and several old friends who gathered with hundreds of mourners at Trinity Episcopal Church in the bucolic Fauquier County village.

Her death was quickly classified as a homicide, although the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office hasn't released a cause of death. Lt. John Hartman said Friday afternoon no one had yet been arrested in connection with Greenhalgh's killing.

Hartman has said several search warrants -- all sealed -- have been executed as part of the investigation, and the FBI was called in for assistance last week.

Speakers at Greenhalgh's service didn't shy away from mentioning her violent passing.

"It's a tragedy and a travesty that brings us together today," Trinity's rector, the Rev. Robert L. Banse Jr., said at the start of the service. "We come with emotions and feelings we can't even begin to fathom.

"As much as I love being in this place, I would much rather be somewhere else right now."

The sandstone and limestone church features high arches, exposed wooden beams and stained-glass windows. Its pews were filled to capacity early Friday afternoon.

Banse said he was sure many people sitting in those pews were wondering how someone could talk about a loving God in the face of what had happened to Greenhalgh.

"I will make a very real confession to you all today, I can't begin to put it all together, and I'm not going to go try to put it all together," he said. "I believe that God is a loving, caring, gracious God. Furthermore, I do not believe that God caused this to happen. In our tradition, we believe in something called free will."

Banse said he believed Greenhalgh was with her family and friends in the church.

"And, I truly believe she's always as close to you as every beat of your heart and every breath that you draw," he said.

Greenhalgh's sister, Kate Langton, said she imagined the photojournalist's friends and family members were struggling for answers as much as she was.

"I imagine that your hearts are as broken as mine," she said.

Langton said she welcomed their theories as to what had happened to her sister, and said she needed to talk about it.

"I'm dependent upon her other tribe, her reporting tribe -- you media people -- to keep on it," she said. "Because she would want you to do that."

And, Greenhalgh would be out digging for the story herself if she could, Langton said. Greenhalgh -- who her sister and her mother, Sara Lee Greenhalgh, had previously described as adventurous, intrepid, vivacious and a tenacious reporter -- will be remembered as "a heroine" by Langton.

Greenhalgh was 12 years younger than Langton, who last week said they'd grown very close in recent years. On Thursday, Langton visited her sister's home. In the church, she held up a hand towel she'd found in the charred ruins. Although Langton said it still smelled of smoke, the word "SAFARI" could clearly be seen on it.

Langton said the word came from a mixture of Swahili and Arabic and meant journey and travel. Greenhalgh traveled extensively to Africa -- starting at the age of 12 -- and took many photographs there. Some of those photos were part of a slideshow at a reception following her memorial.

"I understand from being here just a few days how this event has really impacted so many people in so many ways," Langton said.

She received a call from Greenhalgh six months ago in which her sister told her she'd come across a picture of herself as an infant being held by Langton. Langton said the night after Greenhalgh died, she was unable to sleep, and "I sang her a lullaby for a good portion of the night."

"Like a ship in a harbor, like a mother a child, like a light in the darkness, I will hold you a while," Langton recited. "We will rock on the water, I will cradle you deep and hold you while angels sing you to sleep."

Greenhalgh's longtime love of horses and horse racing were reflected in the words of two more speakers -- Great Meadow Foundation President Robert Banner and former professional polo player Charles Muldoon.

Banner said he'd known Greenhalgh for 25 years as she covered the horse circuit for numerous publications.

"It was her calling," he said. "It really was something that was more than a job for her. This is something that she was born to do. She was always there, probing, curious, a fiend for facts.

"It was just a joy to work with somebody that was that determined, that committed, and that was Sarah to the core. Her attitude was phenomenal."

Muldoon said he'd first met Greenhalgh when both were teenagers and she'd come to work for his family.

"I met her when she walked into the barn, the polo barn," he recalled. "When I looked up, there was a beautiful blond girl."

The three-years' older Greenhalgh had left him virtually speechless, but it was her laughter that Muldoon said he remembered most about that first meeting. He said she had a variety of laughs which each conveyed a different meaning.

"I'm sad that I will never hear that laugh again, but I'm grateful that she and that laugh was a part of our lives," a choked-up Muldoon said.




3 Comments



I cannot recall any circumstance in me life that has left me with utter frustration... What a tragedy and devastating loss to society and humankind... All that work and sacrifice to obtain a hallmark; only to be wiped out at the hands of one whom has no conscience nor soul.. This is a earmark in me life that I will never forget... This type of perp needs to be at the gallows at sunrise, and I would love to pull the rope... I have no idea why this tragedy plagues me so much, other than we were kindred spirits... Sometimes, we have no answers, but I just shake my head in bewilderment as to why.. It's a senseless tragedy... Reggie Arno Danville VA..

Great reporting by Sally Voth. Sarah Greenhalgh was a professional colleague who I had come to know in the news business and through mutual friends in the thoroughbred horse world, which was our common background. The wedding she had attended at Rosemont on July 7 was between her cousin Langdon Byrd Greenhalgh, a global humanitarian relief executive, and Natalie Swope of Winchester, a Frederick County English teacher. She was a vivacious lady who joyfully mingled and embraced fellow guests, clicking photos as she always did wherever she went with a bag full of cameras and lenses.

My own sorrow on hearing the news was my own recollection of a poignant conversation we had just a few months ago about the solitude of journalism that requires writers and editors for news organizations to maintain a distance and independence from the subjects of their reporting.

All journalists make friends with sources and newsmakers we cover. One of my best friends in government as a newsman myself was Sarah’s great-uncle, retired U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd, Jr., who was honored newsmaker guest at my own retirement party in September 2005 after 20-plus years as investigative national news reporter for The Washington Times newspaper. Senator Byrd had granted me an exclusive interview for The Times commemorating his own three decades of public service when he retired from the U.S. Senate in 1986. The full-length recorded interview was published verbatim.

We agreed in our own reminiscences together that journalism and public service are much of the time lonely vocations. In one of our discussions, we recalled that sainted Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what she believed was the worst disease she had ever seen during her Sisters of Charity humanitarian work throughout the world, and her response had been, “Of all the diseases I have known, loneliness is the worst.”

Mother Teresa wrote in her book, My Life for the Poor, “I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody to no one.”

There is no doubt that our fast-paced, morals-free culture produces a plethora of lonely people everywhere –– people who are treated by others as throwaways, those who live alone with no one to care for or about them, with families that are either gone, uninterested, or too busy.
For such people, most days end coming home to an empty home or apartment and spending the evening alone, except perhaps for an occasional friendly visitor or the television.

Like any disease, Mother Teresa was saying, loneliness strikes at any stage in life, afflicting the rich and poor, young and old alike, making no exceptions even for the most celebrated or gifted people on earth.
In our fast-paced society where people are striving to acquire more things, they often find themselves with fewer meaningful relationships.

A recent survey at the University of Chicago revealed that the average urban dweller reaching adulthood can expect to spend 18.5 years of his or her life living in marriage with a spouse, 4.3 years living with someone to whom they are not married, and the rest of their lifetime living alone.

Reasons given include higher divorce rates and growing reluctance of young adults to make a commitment to marriage. Researchers concluded that cohabitation —living together — resulted in more jealousy and physical violence than found among married couples.
Mother Teresa’s testimony in her own lifetime was that our creator understands and offers assistance. She recalled that Jesus Christ spent much of his time with his disciples who rarely communicated on his level. When he became a man, he shared the full range of our feelings and emotions.

While holy scripture teaches that loneliness is not sin, we are told that it is part of our frailty as humans and can lead to bad behavior called sin if we let it get the better of us.

Christ himself taught, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28.) We know from scripture that we need to build and develop good and lasting family relationships.

Believers of all religious faiths going to Trinity Church today to memorialize Sarah Greenhalgh believe that God did not intend for us to be lonely. His intention was that each of us live a life filled with rewarding relationships — the source of true happiness –– wanting us to have loving and appreciative relationships with our family members, encouraging and positive relationships with friends of like mind, and an ever-deepening experience of learning through religious belief and practice.

These are things that “polite society” and our present culture tell us to keep private. But the public outcome and reality of burying these truths are what we tragically bury in the person of Sara Libbey Greenhalgh. May the Lord God protect and preserve her loving soul and memory throughout eternity.

Too much violence everywhere and no respect for life! This is indeed a sickening, horrific murder of an intelligent, healthy woman in her prime with everything to live for.

Now family and friends must suffer her loss forever! So sad. And yes, this tragedy affects us all if we care about the life of another human being.

I hope they get the coward who did this and I hope they don't provide this person a "dream team" to plead his case (taxpayer's expense).

Yesterday's news coverage of that outrageous killing spree in Colorado is chilling and a "sign of the times". Unfortunately the nut case who did this is probably sitting back watching TV and enjoying his sick "moment of fame".



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