Rob Tibbetts, the father of Mollie Tibbetts, delivered a beautiful eulogy for his daughter Sunday at a funeral Mass held in the gymnasium of Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcom High School. More than 1,200 people gathered to honor the 20-year-old University of Iowa student who was found dead after an intense month-long search conducted by several local and national agencies.
“Today, we need to turn the page. We’re at the end of a long ordeal,” he said, as reported by KCRG-TV. “But we need to turn toward life — Mollie’s life — because Mollie’s nobody’s victim. Mollie’s my hero.”
The location of the funeral service held a special significance for Mollie and her family. The college sophomore graduated from Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcom High School, which is only a short walk from where she lived with her mother and two brothers up until her tragic and premature death.
“The person best equipped to help us through this is Mollie,” Rob Tibbetts said. “So let’s try to do what Mollie would do. Let’s say what Mollie would say.”
Tibbetts noted that he wanted to honor Mollie by “celebrating something wonderful.” First, he called on a couple seated in the crowd and asked them to stand up. He announced that the two had just been married, and the gym erupted with a loud applause.
“That felt good. That’s what Mollie would have done,” he said. “Let’s try one more. Let’s hear it for the Bears football team — for their first win.”
Mollie’s younger brother, Scott Tibbetts, is the quarterback for the Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcolm High football team. Tibbetts almost didn’t play in Friday night’s game, but with the support of friends and family who wore blue ribbons to honor Mollie, the high school senior threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third in the first half of the game.
In BGM-Brooklyn's first game of the season, Scott Tibbetts, Mollie Tibbetts' younger brother, scored three touchdowns in the first half as BGM defeated Lisbon 35-24 pic.twitter.com/j8YqqqKgiX
— KCRG (@KCRG) August 25, 2018
On Sunday, Rob Tibbetts thanked community volunteers, law enforcement and members of the media who assisted in the search for Mollie, who went missing on July 18 after going for a jog in Brooklyn, Iowa.
While the grieving father held out hope until the very end that he would be able to witness his daughter’s safe return home, Tibbetts expressed his gratitude for the wide interest in Mollie’s remarkable life.
“You want to know why there’s been such an outpouring?” he said. “It’s because we see ourselves in Mollie.”
The search for TIbbetts came to a tragic close last Tuesday, with the discovery of the young woman’s body in a secluded field just outside of Brooklyn. Her suspected killer, 24-year-old Christian Bahena Rivera was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, and is being held on $5 million bail.
On Wednesday, the Iowa State Medical Examiner confirmed that the body found Tuesday morning was that of Tibbetts. Initial reports ruled the cause of death to be homicide resulting from multiple “sharp force injuries.”
In the place of a casket, three of Tibbetts’ senior portraits stood at the front of the gym Sunday. Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula led a Mass of the Resurrection for Tibbetts in the gym, which was outfitted with a makeshift altar covered in a white cloth, KCRG reported. Rev. Corey Close, the pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Brooklyn, delivered a homily.
In an obituary for Mollie, the 20-year-old’s family members celebrated Tibbetts’ contagious zest for life and compassion for all people.
“Mollie loved life,” the obituary reads. “Her passion for it radiated from those beautiful brown eyes and the smile that she was so quick to share with everyone she met.”
Tibbetts left behind more than 30 living relatives and the “love of her life,” Dalton Jack, who played an active role in the effort to bring Mollie home.
Mollie’s family has asked that memorial donations be made to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Contributions can be mailed in care of the Smith Funeral Home, P.O. Box 368, Grinnell, Iowa 50112.