(photo submitted)

By Darren Zancan

“Love.”If Hillary Hadley’s life could be summed up in one word, friends and family would say, love.

On August 11, Hadley was killed after her truck collided with a CSX train in Berea. She was ejected from her vehicle and thrown nearly 30 feet.

Hadley, 21, made an immediate impact on those she met, which was evident at her memorial service on Monday night. More than 200 people attended the service held at Trinity Church in Richmond.

Almost everyone who spoke about her, spoke of the love she had for people, the love she had for her family and the love she had for God.

“She had a genuine love for everybody,” said sophomore Becca Gnadinger.

Hadley was a member of CRU, a campus-wide Christian community. There she met some of her closest friends and her boyfriend Nicholas Ray.

Ray, Hadley and several members of Cru went to Destin, Fla., for spring break in 2009. Ray had already developed an attraction to Hadley, but never pursued it. One night, in Destin, he decided to tell her he had feelings.

“I cared about her a lot,” Ray said. “I finally asked her to take a walk on the beach. There I told her I was attracted to her. She felt the same.”

The two would wonder off every night for a walk, getting to know each other.

After returning from Destin, Ray and Hadley would only have a few months together before she left for missionary work in Colorado. When she returned, he left for military duty. But when he returned on February 11, they spent every day together.

“She was my best friend and I told her everything,” Ray said. “She was a disciple to me. Usually the man is, more or less, supposed to be the rock in the relationship, but she was the rock. Hillary made a point to show me how special love was. I would have taken her place in a heartbeat.”

Hadley immersed herself in CRU. There is where she met most of her close friends. At the memorial, many CRU members stood up and mentioned all the special moments they encountered.

“I can’t remember a time when she was not smiling,” sophomore Holly Gardner said. “She always wanted to make new friends. She wanted others to feel the same way she did. Hillary was full of life all the time.”

Besides her love for people, Hadler loved music and was a drum major at Adair County High School. She participated at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Before majoring in dietetics, she was a part of the aviation program and wanted to be a pilot.

She even finished an entire 90 day P90X workout, something that still impresses her friends.

But what impressed her family and friends the most was her selfless attitude towards others.

“It’s hard to be sad when you realize she touched so many people’s lives,” Maxi Hadley, Hillary’s father said.

Her mom Kathy is just proud to be her mom.

“I’m thrilled the Lord picked us,” Kathy said. “We were average parents, but she made us better parents.”

As a part of the memorial, Hillary’s brother Bart read a letter she had written to God thanking him for everything in her life.

On Monday, Hadley’s friends had one more opportunity to thank her for the role she played in their lives.

“It makes me want to be like her,” sophomore Jennifer Blair said. “She made us want to live our lives like she did. She reached out to people. If they needed a hug, she would give it to them.”

“She’ll never know the impact she had on people,” Paige Pelphrey said.

Hadley would do whatever it took to take the pain away from someone else, even if it included embarrassing herself. She liked “fake falling” in front of a large group of people or strangers, just for a laugh.

Every week friends would gather for bible study. You could find Hillary doing one-on-one talks with her friends, encouraging them and teaching them whatever she knew.

“If there was anyone allowed in Heaven, she’d be the first in line,” Gardner said.

Kathy said no matter how much, or little time Hillary had, she would give that time to others and hope to spread the word of God.

“She belonged to the Lord before she belonged to us,” Kathy said. “It’s who she’s always been. I’ve read several of her journal entries. It’s lifted me up. The prayers she wrote. She has given us a whole bunch of comfort. She’s blessed us amazingly.”

One of the last memories Kathy and Maxi have of their daughter was a canoe trip the entire family went on.

When everyone was preparing to head their respective ways, Hillary ran up to her parents with a large smile and wanted one more goodbye.

“Wait, one more hug,” Hillary said to her mom.

Friends and family gathered for a memorial Monday to remember Hillary Hadley at Trinity Church. (Stephanie Smith)