Funeral set for Saturday for Kahler family members

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | 7:13 p.m. CST; updated 8:58 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — With a funeral for Karen, Emily and Lauren Kahler set for Saturday, the shock of the family's tragedy is turning to remembrance in Columbia.

Karen Kahler, who was shot to death on Saturday along with her teenage daughters at her grandmother's home in Kansas, was a personal trainer at the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center where she was known for her intense boot camp training classes. A vigil will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the center by her Tuesday and Thursday boot camp class, said Shay Gann, a friend of Karen’s who took the class.

James Kraig Kahler, former Columbia Water and Light director, is charged in the shootings.

Gann, who started a blog with her husband to help the Kahler family, said the women in Karen's class went to the center Wednesday to pass out fliers about the vigil.

"We've been taking this class the last two years together, so we're a tight-knit group," Gann said. "We were brainstorming Tuesday and decided to put on this vigil."

The blog, "In Memory of Karen, Emily and Lauren Kahler," was created to provide emotional and financial support for the Kahler family. Gann said it also serves to honor Karen's grandmother, Dorothy Wight, who was listed in critical condition at the time the blog was made, and to provide care for Sean Kahler. The 10-year-old son escaped from Wight's home in Burlingame, Kan., where the shootings occurred. Wight, 89, died on Tuesday.

"We created it in mind of raising some immediate cash," Gann said.

The blog uses the PayPal system to collect contributions. Gann said the Holiday Inn Select-Executive Center has donated four rooms for family members who are coming in on Thursday.

Gann said she has received cash donations from those who knew Karen, and the blog has already generated several contributions.

At Rock Bridge High School, a private memorial service will be held Thursday afternoon in the school’s media center. Principal Kathy Ritter said the service is closed to the media.

“It’s organized by the school for students, teachers and parents to let them share their thoughts of the (Kahler) girls,” she said. Emily, 18, graduated in June, and Lauren, 16, was a junior at Rock Bridge.

The high school has a poster displayed in the common area for students to write their memories of Lauren. On Monday, students and teachers participated in a moment of silence in her memory.

A Facebook page created by Paige Shipma, a student at Rock Bridge and one of Lauren’s close friends, now has more than 1,000 members. Those who knew the Kahler family can post memories and pictures to the group’s wall, and can communicate with each other about upcoming vigils and memorial services.

Bryan Daniels, director of public relations at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, where Emily was a first-year student, said no memorial is scheduled for the near future, but the college plans to honor Emily Kahler in the spring.

“We want to let the family do what they need to do and let them grieve,” he said.

The college held a vigil for the family Monday evening on the St. Louis campus. Daniels said the lobby in one of the residence halls had a tribute to Emily where students are allowed to write their thoughts.

“It’s meant for them to write kind words and thoughts about the family,” he said.

Daniels said the college’s student services department will sit down with students and administrators to determine a plan for a memorial.

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