NORTH ROYALTON – Kylie Pifer had always dreamed of going to Disney World and that wish came true just a month ago with the trip of a lifetime. Softball was her sister Taylor’s world. Taylor was 21, Kylie, 18. Their mom, Suzanne “Sue” Taylor, 45, loved her girls, parties and get-togethers and would do anything for anyone.
Nearly 300 friends, family, classmates and residents joined together June 14 in front of North Royalton High School for a vigil to mourn these women who were found murdered in their Ridge Road home three days earlier. Just a few hours before the vigil’s start, their family friend George Brinkman Jr., 45, was charged with three counts of aggravated murder, three counts of kidnapping and one count of tampering with evidence in connection to their deaths.
Rhonda Whitelock, a friend of Sue’s since they were 5, organized the memorial to give grieving friends and family a chance to share memories, begin the healing process and offer the community a window into these lives gone far too soon.
“I feel like I had to do this. I think she would have appreciated it. She always loved parties,” Whitelock said. “This is for healing.”
Chrissy Calta, another schoolmate, said before the vigil, Sue was one of the sweetest people around.
“She’s always been a very sweet girl. She was outgoing, fun. She would never harm anyone. She would do anything for anybody,” she said.
Calta was still in a state of disbelief someone would take advantage of that.
“She opened her house to him. She tried to help him numerous times,” Calta said, referring to Brinkman.
Even people who didn’t know the girls were grieving the circumstances – residents, councilpeople, businesses. People like Deborah Haley, who works at the North Royalton Animal Hospital and belongs to St. Albert the Great Parish, and Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw.
“Today is not about the monster,” Langshaw said before the vigil. “It’s about the Taylor and Pifer family and just letting them know the whole community is behind them.”
When asked why she attended, Haley turned to show the back of her St. Albert shirt that read, “community, compassion, service.”
“They need all the support, love and prayers we can give,” she said.
Jen Bobak was a close friend and coached with Sue.
“They were just at my house on Friday,” she said in shock, battling emotions. “They were the best, most loving family ever.”
Another woman didn’t know the girls personally; however, both of her daughters graduated from the high school with Taylor and Kylie, in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
“We are a family,” she said, looking around at the other mourners. “This is just sad, really sad.”
Juliana Markovic, 19, knew Kylie since they were in grade school at Albion Elementary. She wishes they spent more time together.
“I wish we had more memories. She was really in to Halloween and was a loving, kind soul. Just a very nice person,” she said.
Jon Karl, school resources police officer, knew both the girls, Taylor more so, and described them both as model students.
“They were respected by their teachers, helpers in the office, attentive to other students,” Karl remembers.
When she was a freshman, Taylor was devastated by the loss of her best friend Stephanie Edmison, who died unexpectedly in her sleep.
“Taylor helped work the school office at the time and did a lot of things to help remember Stephanie. And, Kylie was identical to her sister, very caring. I spoke to a number of staff that remembers them as one of their favorite students,” Karl said, choking back tears.
When loved ones spoke about the women, the tears flowed freely.
“Forty years ago, I came across this brown-haired, fun girl. Little did I know we’d be friends forever,” Whitelock said.
Through birthdays, graduations, weddings, children, their friendship only strengthened.
“How do you put 40 years of memories into four pages?” she said during the vigil.
Danielle Page, another classmate of Sue, had been looking forward to outings with her this summer. The first thing they had planned was an upcoming trip to the zoo.
“I love you, Sue,” she said, looking up to the heavens. “Take care of your girls.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, Dale Kostar, who found the bodies, spoke about Taylor and Kylie.
“I tried to break up with her, but she told me no. She knew what she wanted,” he smiled, everyone chuckling. “Taylor loved softball more than anything in the world. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see her play. She always told me she was one of the best pitchers. She was robbed of a lot of years, but I like to think I gave Taylor the relationship she always wanted.”
He shared about Kylie’s dream to visit Disney, which they finally did the end of May.
“So many memories,” he said of the trip.
He thanked God for shielding him when he found the girls.
“Things could have been a lot worse, I could have seen a lot more,” he told the crowd.
Another friend encouraged everyone not to take friends for granted.
“Reach out to them and spend time with them,” she said.
Someone, in closing, encouraged the crowd to think also of the John family – Rogell Eugene John II, 71, and Roberta Ray John, 64, were found dead in their Stark County home the evening of June 12. Brinkman, who had been house sitting for the couple and was a family friend, has also been linked to their deaths.
“We need to lift them up in prayer,” he said.
“And when you leave here, go hug your family a little tighter tonight,” someone added.