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Pastor: Tragedy not God’s will

Pastor consoles grieving family during triple funeral

By Tom Weber

weber@postbulletin.com

Jesus Christ’s love of children was the theme of a funeral service Saturday for three young victims of a May 23 traffic accident just south of Rochester International Airport.

Reading from Matthew 19:13-15 of the Bible, the Rev. Norman Wahl assured mourners at Bethel Lutheran Church that Heidi Jean Newell, 19, of Rochester, her son, Carter Andrew Newell, 21⁄2, of Rochester, and Heidi’s brother, Raymond Lee Milholland, 5 weeks old, of Rochester, are, like other young people, recipients of Jesus’ special attention.

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"Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me. It is to such as these little children that belongs the kingdom of heaven,’" Wahl said.

"The kingdom of heaven belongs to little ones like Carter and Raymond?" Wahl asked, then answered, "Yes. To young adults like Heidi? Yes."

The three, along with Terry Milholland, 45, of Beecher, Ill., and Jarah M. Beers, 23, of Rochester, were killed when the van in which they were riding was struck by a truck driven by Christopher Steven Frisch, 25, of Winona. Frisch has been charged with 24 felony counts, including multiple counts of vehicular homicide. The family had been at a picnic in Austin, then fishing near Albert Lea earlier in the day, and were just returning home.

The only survivor in the van driven by Terry Milholland was Rita Seha, 43, of Rochester, mother of Heidi and Raymond. Seha, who was engaged to Terry Milholland, attended the funeral Saturday with her arm in a sling.

Wahl told the large crowd at the church that the deaths came at the end of a wonderful day full of family activities.

"It was a great day, with a tragic ending," he said. There is no way, he said, to portray the tragedy as something good.

"That was not God’s will," Wahl said. "It was the consequence of a human misdeed."

Wahl said Heidi had been scheduled to graduate from Rochester Off-Campus, the charter high school, two days before the funeral.

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"Her family was so proud of her," he said.

Heidi’s son, Carter, Wahl said, enjoyed watching "SpongeBob SquarePants" and loved playing with balls.

Raymond, meanwhile, was growing and developing day by day, Wahl said.

As part of the service, soloist Lisa Ketola sang Heidi’s favorite song, "Broken," which includes the lyrics, "Don’t stop believing in yourself."

Following the service at the church, a long line of cars drove through a steady drizzle for graveside services at Grandview Memorial Gardens.

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