Loved ones pack church for WDBJ photojournalist's funeral

Loved ones gather to remember Adam Ward

ROANOKE, VA (WWBT) - Hundreds of people came out Tuesday to pay their final respects to WDBJ photojournalist Adam Ward at the First Baptist Church in Roanoke. Just last week, Ward and reporter Alison Parker were ambushed and gunned down on live television.

But his funeral was about remembering the man behind the camera who made everyone laugh.

There were plenty of stories:Ward once raced his principal down the hallways of Salem High School.  He knew how to rally the entire student section at Virginia Tech games, either by getting them to cheer louder or by painting his chest.  At his funeral, there were even jokes at rival UVA's expense.

"I think it was a way of uplifting Adam and his entire family and really showing us the grace they have exhibited during this whole tragedy," says Mike Stevens, the former WDBJ sports. Adam was his intern and Stevens said Adam had a work ethic he always admired.  "Every day he came in the door and said, 'Mr. Stevens, let's do work,'" says Stevens.  "And it didn't matter if I sent him to Virginia Tech press conference or to a girls' basketball game."

The crowd included WDBJ employees, first responders, various friends and family and Governor Terry McAuliffe.  Adam leaves behind his mother, brother, sister and fiancee Melissa Ott.  Ott is a producer at the station and was in the control room when Adam and Alison were murdered.

The crowd learned that Adam battled an immune deficiency most of his childhood.  But that molded him into the kind, compassionate young man who made sacrifices for the people he loved.  Outside the church, viewers lined the streets.

"I just hope that they can feel the love and support from the whole Roanoke area and the world," says Susan Taylor from Salem.

The act of violence that took Adam and reporter Alison Parker's lives was mentioned.  And a prayer was even lifted up for the family of the shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan, who was once employed at WDBJ.  But Tuesday was about Adam and Alison's legacy.

"They brought such light to the world, our obligation is to carry it further," says WDBJ general manager Jeff Marks.  "Let's talk about healthcare, mental health care, and let's do something."

There were many messages shared on Tuesday, but the biggest one for those who knew him: they want to be more like Adam.

"That means have a smile on your face and treat people the way you want to be treated," says Stevens.  "It's that simple: be Adam-like."

In a final tribute, local news photographers took out their cameras and lined the road to the cemetery in honor of  Adam.

Alison Parker's ashes will be scattered at the Nantahala River in North Carolina. That ceremony will be private.  WDBJ's general manager says they are working on a permanent memorial honoring Alison and Adam at the news station.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to two scholarships set up in Adam's name, Salem Education Foundation and Alumni Association, P.O Box 1461, Salem, VA 24153 or to the Adam L. Ward Scholarship at Virginia Tech through WDBJ-7, 2807 Hershberger Road, NW, Roanoke, VA 24017.

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