Billionaire Tennessee heiress Eliza Fletcher, who was kidnapped during an early morning jog on Sept. 2 and murdered, was remembered by her family and friends as a “light and also a joy” at her funeral Saturday morning in Memphis.
The service at the Second Presbyterian Church began with a children’s choir who sang, “This Little Light of Mine,” one of Fletcher’s favorite songs. Senior pastor George Robertson said she sang it for her kindergarten students.
Fletcher, who was 34 when she was killed, met her husband, Richard, at the church and the couple married there in March 2014.
“Liza didn’t have the resume of a world changer,” Robertson told mourners. “She struggled through school and her college soccer career was cut short. She battled her way to finish college. Then she got her master’s degree and married Richie and had her beautiful boys and became a kindergarten teacher.”
“She was a light and also a joy,” he added. ‘It is right for us to grieve, but let us grieve with hope. Let’s carry on the legacy of our dear sister.”
Fletcher, of Memphis, who was called “Liza,” went missing Sept. 2 during a 4 a.m. jog near the University of Memphis and was discovered by authorities on Monday after a multi-day search.
Fletcher was forced into a dark GMC Terrain, Memphis police said. Her smashed phone and water bottle were also found nearby.
Cops announced the discovery of a body that Monday, but didn’t confirm it was Fletcher’s until Tuesday. Her body was found more than three miles southwest of her home.
Cleotha Abston, 38, who served 20 years in prison for especially aggravated kidnapping in 2000, has been charged with murdering Fletcher, the granddaughter of a late billionaire. Abston has also been charged with an additional count of aggravated kidnapping and rape in an “unrelated” case
An online obituary described Fletcher as “devoted” to her work and her students.
“As with everything Liza took on, she nurtured and cared for her students with her whole heart,” the obituary said. “A strong believer in the importance of personal growth, she was not afraid to be vulnerable. To the contrary, she embraced it.”
The young mother was also described as a “born athlete.”
“Liza’s passion for sports extended from childhood teams to collegiate competition to excellence in marathons in adulthood,” according to the obituary. “She found great joy in her morning runs with friends. She channeled her competitive nature into enthusiastic participation in all that she undertook.”
Fletcher was someone who “modeled the Christian life and trusted in her unwavering faith,” the tribute said.
The page adds: “Her impact is extraordinary, as is witnessed in the prayer groups, vigils held at the homes of friends and family, church and school gatherings, and memorial runs and walks held in her honor. The outpouring of love and grief would have surprised Liza, who never thought or acted as if she were something special – though she certainly was.”
The family asks that anyone wishing to contribute can make a donation to a fund set up in her memory at St Mary’s Episcopal school, where she taught, or at the church which played a key role in her life.