Jacqueline Croke bonded with Juliane Siller over cats, on Instagram a few months ago. Siller quickly asked for Croke’s phone number; they became gym buddies, and friends.
While their friendship was short, Croke said Siller’s impact on her life will be everlasting.
“I feel so lucky that I got to have her in my life for even a few months,” Croke said. “I will never forget her.”
Croke was one of hundreds who came to Palmer Park in Skippack Township on Thursday night to celebrate the life of Siller, a 17-year-old Spring-Ford High School senior whose life was cut tragically short on Saturday night after being stabbed multiple times, .
Pennsylvania State Police and local fire companies helped to block the Heckler Road entrance to the park, while friends walked from the vigil across the street to a memorial on the Skippack Trail – less than 20 feet from where Siller's body was found in the woods, just three weeks shy of her high school graduation.
Guests to the vigil – Siller’s peers, adults and children, mostly dressed in purple and tie-dye in her honor – wrote messages to Siller that were sent off with a large bunch of balloons by her parents, Gary and Jennifer, brother, Dennis, and some of her close friends at the start of the event, which was organized by Siller’s friends Brandon Sacro and Brianna Shuck.
Sitting on a hill overlooking the park, old and new friends addressed the crowd for roughly two hours, sharing memories of Siller.
Devon Poelck, a friend of Siller’s from preschool, said they were “partners in crime” before they started going to different schools, though they remained very close.
“She had the cutest giggle that anyone who knows her would know – but you knew she was up to no good when you heard it,” said Poelck.
A well-known face in the crowd was Susan Weslowski, who lost her son Matthew – also a Spring-Ford High School student – in a 2010 car accident.
“I look around and I see so many familiar faces standing here tonight who stood in another location three years ago, grieving another classmate, another friend – a place where Julianne stood,” Weslowski said. “Who would have ever thought we would be standing here lighting a candle for her?”
Weslowski said that Siller had “a smile like the sunshine warming the day,” a “twinkle in her eye that could light up the darkest skies,” was a “free spirited, kind, caring person,” and a “once in a lifetime friend.”
Though Siller is gone, Weslowski said, she is still in the hearts of those whos lives she touched.
“The only things you really have are the ones that you hold inside your heart,” said Weslowski.
To fellow student and friend Matt Moyer, read lyrics from Jackson Browne's "Sky Blue and Black," saying Siller is “all the beautiful things we see every day.”
“The sunset, the sunrise – it’s Julie, coming to us, talking to us, saying hello.”
Some speakers said they have seen more cats in the past few days than they ever have, that they see the sun in more of their photos – that Julie is with them.
Many other friends took the microphone to reminisce about Siller – meeting Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, seeing each other in the halls, her "crazy" sense of humor – but the one common theme was that her life, and her spirit, is one to be celebrated.
“I know she’s smiling down right now, telling us all not to cry, not to be sad,” said Richie Leonetti, Siller's friend.
Walking away from the vigil, many said it was a beautiful experience that was fitting for Siller.
"I didn't know Julie that well, we were only acquaintances, but I was happy to be there to support everyone through this difficult time," said Perkiomen Valley High School student Courtney Schillinger. "Tonight turned out to be so amazing - Julie would have loved it."
"It was the most emotionally uplifting thing I wish I didn't have to experience," said Siller's friend Eric Poelck.
Siller's funeral services will be held Friday at 11:00 AM at Catagnus Funeral Home & Cremation Center, Ltd., 329 N. Lewis Rd., Royersford. Interment will follow at Limerick Garden of Memories, Limerick. Visitation will be held Friday from 9:30-10:45 AM at the funeral home.
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