Family, friends and supporters came together Friday evening to remember the life of 5-year-old Hartley Anderson, who was described by those who knew her best as a “sweet, sassy and spunky” little girl.
“Hartley was an incredibly special girl. … She filled our days with sunshine and joy,” her mother, Nataasha Luchau, said through tears while reading a prepared statement to media. “Life will never be the same without her again.”
The Vancouver girl suffered severe head trauma and died Nov. 2 at a Portland hospital. Shortly after, 37-year-old Ryan M. Burge, who had been baby-sitting Hartley that day, was arrested. He is accused of beating her to death and faces charges of first- and second-degree murder in Clark County Superior Court.
“This is going to be a long, hard journey as we fight for justice for Hartley, and all of your love has helped to lighten the heavy load on our shoulders,” her mother said. “Hartley will always be in our hearts. I love you so much. We will never stop fighting for justice.”
Local mothers who are members of a Facebook group called BC Sisters came together to put on the vigil for Hartley and her family. They collected toys for the Children’s Justice Center and donations to assist Hartley’s family and help cover funeral expenses.
“We just want people thinking about (Hartley) and this kind of situation,” said Tomisa Bates, a friend of the family who helped organize the vigil.
More than 100 people gathered at LeRoy Haagen Memorial Park arranged in a circle with their faces aglow with candlelight.
Luchau sobbed as she made her way to the center of the circle with family by her side. The song “Dancing in the Sky” by Dani and Lizzy played from a speaker: “Tell me, what does it look like in heaven? Is it peaceful, is it free like they say? Does the sun shine bright forever? Have your fears and your pain gone away?”
The song was followed by a moment of silence, before family and friends began sharing their fondest memories of the little girl.
Her aunt, Whitney Luchau, said that Hartley loved to play with her dogs and would often break the “no dogs on the bed” rule. She described Hartley as a “straight shooter” and just a “sweet, sweet girl.”
Her uncle, TJ Luchau, recalled when Hartley met his daughter Ruby. Her first concern was that the newborn needed some toys.
Hartley’s grandfather, Tim Luchau, said that she stole everyone’s heart and had a mind of her own. “There was never a dull moment with her. I’m going to miss her every day,” he said.
Nataasha Luchau said her daughter enjoyed dancing and singing, and said Hartley’s “free spirit touched everyone who met her.”
Although many tears were shed during the vigil, the family wanted to show the silliness they shared with Hartley and played the popular children’s song, “Baby Shark” — dancing included.
The vigil concluded with a prayer read by Whitney Luchau: “Jesus let the light of Hartley’s life shine brighter than the evil that was done to her…”