HARMONY — Cars lined U.S. Highway 52 in Preston outside of Serenity Hills Pavilion on Wednesday as hundreds of people from the surrounding area gathered to celebrate the life of Gabby Brown.
Students at Fillmore Central, where Gabby's mother, Heidi Brown, is a special education teacher, were released at noon on Wednesday so students could attend the funeral.
Shortly after Gabby celebrated her first birthday and baptism, her parents, Matthew and Heidi Brown, took her to the hospital for a mild fever. Blood work was done, and the results of the tests were not good.
She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a blood cancer that begins in the marrow of a person's bones.
Gabby underwent treatments at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Her parents, who own Estelle’s Eatery in Harmony, have seen an outpouring of community support during that time.
On Oct. 5, Gabby "passed away peacefully in her mother's arms surrounded by family", read her obituary.
"Gabby has touched many hearts in our area and filled the world with her smile. She always greeted anyone that walked in the door at Mayo with 'Hi-eeee!'" said her obituary. "Gabby taught us how to love life and be more giving to those in need."
Lisa Kingsley, owner of Harmony Garden & Floral, said that Gabby's illness brought the entire community together to back the Brown family.
In September, Kingsley and Harmony residents Lindsay Barnes and Cindy Sween Ofstedal worked together to decorate Estelle's for fall.
"I think every business in Harmony or Preston that knew about this has tried to do what they can to help," Kingsley said.
She said that's because the Browns are very loving, community-minded people.
"They've always been very supportive of Harmony, so Harmony has been very supportive of them," Kingsley said.
Harmony is a very close-knit community in general, said Kingsley, and Gabby's fight brought everyone even closer.