A simple story followed by a verse from the Bible. That's how the Rev. David Zachrich, pastor of Tallmadge Lutheran Church, was to begin the memorial service Saturday morning for homicide victims Wendy Ralston, of Tallmadge, and her son, Peyton.
Between a short visitation with the family and the memorial service, Zachrich, on behalf of the family, spoke about Wendy and Peyton and how they are being remembered.
The family requested days before the service that no media cameras be permitted inside, and shortly before the service began, Tallmadge Police said the family chose not to have reporters attend the service at all.
"It's a difficult time, so if I waver a little I'm sorry for that," Zachrich told reporters before the service.
Zachrich has known Wendy's parents, Marie, and her ex-husband, Bill, for about 20 years. His daughter played soccer with Wendy, and Wendy's daughter, Alexis, an eighth grader, is in his confirmation class at the church.
Marie and Bill have been raising Alexis at their home in Tallmadge, Zachrich said.
He said it has been difficult for Alexis, an eighth grader, to lose her mother.
"And the little guy, Peyton, was just Grandma and Grandpa's joy and delight," Zachrich said. "He played Wiffle Ball all the time in the backyard with grandpa, drove those little Matchbox cars and trucks all over.
"And they said the key part they miss the most about Wendy is that she had an infectious laugh, just a delightful, happy lady. Peyton carried that on. But as we said the other night, that's all stopped. And I'll miss her very much," he said.
Marie Ralston discovered her 31-year-old daughter and 5-year-old grandson's remains in a wooded area behind their Stone Creek Drive home Aug. 10.
Police publicly named Wendy's live-in boyfriend and father of Peyton as a suspect in the case Thursday.
Williams said his department will present evidence it has gathered to a grand jury, which he hopes will lead to an indictment within two weeks. He said the name of the boyfriend will not be made public until charges are filed.
He said the cause of death for the victims will be disclosed as part of the criminal case.
Zachrich said Bill is sad he'll no longer take Peyton shopping, something they enjoyed.
"So there's a lot of sadness in the family," Zachrich said.
He said the family is appreciative of the work Tallmadge Police is doing to solve Wendy and Peyton's murder cases.
"They are looking for resolution, very much, and when that happens, that will be a relief and a joy for us as well," Zachrich said.
Marie Ralston, Wendy's mother, was expected to read prepared remarks that focused, in part, on how much she misses her daughter and grandson.
Given the circumstances, the family is doing well, Zachrich said.
"They're a strong family. The other night when we met, we were everywhere from tears to laughter and silliness," he said.
According to Lt. Ron Williams, public information officer for Tallmadge Police, a "steady stream" of people came to the calling hours at Donovan Funeral Home Friday.
The family has scheduled a private burial for a later date.
Tallmadge Lutheran Church continues to collect money to help the family pay for funeral expenses. To date, the church has collected about $6,000, according to Zachrich. Donations also can be made to the Ralston Family Memorial Fund at any First Merit Bank branch.