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Family, friends remember women killed in crash

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By Kacie Goode

She squinted as she watched the pink balloon float to the heavens, the string brushing by her tiny hand. A simple message disappeared into the sun. “I love you mommy.”

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Little Bailie Rose was among the youngest of mourners, joining the dozens of family and friends who gathered at Dean Watts Park Saturday afternoon to remember Billie Rose Watts and Amber Tingle, two young women killed in a crash in August that left its impact on the community — an impact felt as the colorful balloons drifted from the hands that held them.

Melissa Beatty was Billie Rose’s next-door neighbor.

“She was the first person I met when I moved here to Nelson County,” Beatty said, after releasing her balloon. “She had the biggest heart.”

Like many others, Beatty described Billie Rose as bubbly and always in a good mood. She was a woman with a passion for animals that bordered on crazy cat lady, a woman with a big sense of humor who could make others laugh, and an amazing mother.

“Billie was a great person. She didn’t meet a stranger, that’s for sure,” said Amber Thompson. “She had a heart of gold and always thought of everybody.”

She remembered how her friend loved to paint, find and hunt rocks, a popular activity in Nelson County, and Billie would take her daughter Bailie out almost every day looking for the treasurers, which is why a rock painting station was set up at the memorial Saturday.

“You never think about at 30 years old you lose a best friend,” Thompson said.

While Thompson didn’t know Amber well, she said Billie considered herself a big sister to Amber.

“She used to tell us all the time, ‘That’s my little sister,’ ” she recalled.

Others noticed the closeness between Billie Rose and Amber Tingle as well.

“Anytime Billie Rose knew I was visiting Amber, she would tell her to ‘tell Mom not to leave until I get there,’ and she would always make a point to stop what she was doing to come see me,” said Tina Tingle, Amber’s mother. She described her daughter as full of love and always thriving to do better.

“She just kept spreading her love,” Tingle said. “She was an all-around good girl trying her best to find her way and never giving in to the ‘yuck’ of life, while loving as many as she could.”

Friends and family also described Amber as someone who loved animals, and who loved fishing. Her father, Tim Ray, recalled a time when she was little and every day she’d want to go in the yard and look for worms.

Amber’s aunt, Pam Baxter, described her niece as a “gypsy soul” who could get along with someone from any generation.

“With Amber, it didn’t matter what the situation was, she always had a smile on her face,” she said, knowing she died a happy person.

The two young women were riding together in Amber’s yellow mustang — a car she had an obsession for and took pride in — when they were struck and killed by another driver Aug. 11. They were in the midst of preparing for Bailie’s fourth birthday. The crash occurred in front of Flaget Memorial Hospital, and even three months later, crosses and flowers mark the spot where the two lost their lives. For many, it has been a trying and frustrating time as they seek answers.

“She was just a great girl who was stolen from all of us, not just from me, her mother and her brothers, but from everyone,” said Ray, who organized Saturday’s event. “The whole state was robbed of two beautiful young women.”

Amber was 26 years old. Billie Rose was 30. They had a joint funeral, where friends and family flooded the funeral home to pay their respects. They are both buried in New Salem Baptist Church Cemetery. A fishing pole was placed in Amber’s casket, a nod to the activity she loved, and Billie Rose clutches a note from her young daughter. Pastors and loved ones shared music, and memories shared about the two friends allowed laughter to momentarily break the grief.

At Saturday’s memorial, Chaplain Eldon Morgan shared a prayer with those who gathered. Morgan was among those who responded to the crash scene that day.

“We know that we will never forget them. We celebrate now their lives and what they meant to those who knew and loved them,” Morgan prayed. “Let the joy of knowing them and knowing where they are and the love that we had for them bring us into consolation.”

Morgan joined those at Saturday’s memorial as they watched intently until the balloons scrawled with loving messages could no longer be seen. Together, they remembered the bubbly young mom and the girl with the yellow 5.0.