Ashley Browder was remembered Saturday as a free spirit, whose tragic death at age 21 should serve as a reminder “not to take a single second for granted.”Nearly 400 friends and family crowded into LifePoint Church in Minden for a memorial service for the 2009 Douglas High School graduate killed early Feb. 10 in an Albuquerque traffic accident that injured her sister Lindsay.Sobs were audible as LifePoint Pastor Bill McCready brought mourners to prayer.“I know this is a difficult day for lots of folks,” he said. “It's one of many difficult days for Ashley's family. May God's words minister to our hearts.”Ashley's cousin Adam Serfoss said she was his sister “to the fullest extent of the word.”“We were born only months apart. No one can imagine how close we became,” he said. “Ashley was kind, caring, and prettier than ever.”He said Ashley had no qualms about speaking her mind.“She was always looking out for me, and guiding me, especially about the people I had in my life,” he said.“The morning she passed, Donna (Ashley's mother) looked at me, and said, ‘Now who's going to tell you who to marry?' I imagine I will be divorced many times over because Ashley wasn't here to tell me what to do,” Serfoss said.“She gave me the judgment and strength to make the right decisions. She has changed my life forever,” he said.“The only thing I take out of this is to let the little things go, love one another, and don't take a single second for granted,” Serfoss said.Another cousin, Kimberly Williams, sang “Amazing Grace.”
Ashley's father Charles Browder thanked everyone for their support, especially Air National Guard units in New Mexico and Nevada. Following in her father's footsteps, Ashley joined the Nevada guard when she was 18, and was transferring to New Mexico where she planned to live.“You know what a free spirit she was,” Browder said of his daughter. “She touched a lot of people all over the place, especially in Nevada and New Mexico. She had a very promising future. She loved being in the military.”Browder said he took comfort in the knowledge that Ashley did not suffer.“When she left this life, she was with her favorite person in the world, and that was Lindsay,” he said.The sisters' love for each other “is one of the truest loves you'll ever see,” he said.“Love your children, hug your children, tell them you love them as often as you can,” Browder said.McCready assured the congregation it was normal to struggle with the question of why Ashley died.“We don't see the world with the same clarity God does. We don't know what it means,” he said. “God's heart was broken the day Ashley passed, and God has matched us tear for tear. He sees our pain, and He experiences it with us.”The accident which claimed Ashley and injured her 19-year-old sister remains under investigation. According to preliminary reports, the Albuquerque officer ran a red light and collided with the sisters' vehicle which had the right of way. The officer's car struck the passenger's side of the Honda where Ashley was riding.“When someone makes a bad decision, it can cost someone who is innocent,” McCready said.He concluded the service with a prayer for healing.“We are ever so grateful You have prepared a place for Ashley. As much as that leaves a hole in our lives, we are grateful You are caring for her now,” McCready said.Following the memorial, Ashley was interred with military honors as a cold winter wind whipped through Eastside Memorial Park.Flags were presented to her mother and father, along with the playing of Taps and a three-volley salute. Many of the mourners stopped to kiss the or touch the container which held her ashes.After the service, Nevada Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Barozzi described Ashley as “just a fun-loving, happy, pigeon-toed kid.”“I liked her for her positive attitude and joy for life,” Barozzi said.Barozzi said he'd spent the time since Ashley's death assisting her family.“Her mother, Donna, is a phenomenal woman,” Barozzi said.He said she would have had “an exceptional career” with the National Guard.“She loved it. She wanted to be out there full time. She kept asking me for more days,” he said.Friends have set up an account to assist the Browders with expenses. Donations may be made to the “Browder Family Benefit Fund” at any Wells Fargo Bank branch.