Hannah Claire Fenton, 12, who passed away Easter Sunday, was remembered as a girl who loved to sing, dreamed of becoming a marine biologist and delighted friends and family with her “spicy” approach to life.
Hundreds of family members, friends and Glen Rose ISD students, teachers and parents paid homage to Hannah’s memory at a funeral service Thursday afternoon at the Glen Rose High School Auditorium. The stage was bedecked with flowers. Arrangements spilled over into the side aisles.
Hannah and her parents, Darryl and Dena Fenton, and her 17-year-old sister, Chelsea, attended First Baptist Church and Pastor Brent Ferren opened the service and gave a brief biography of Hannah.
She had been named to the Junior High Honor Society, was a percussionist for the sixth and seventh grade band, was baptized at age 7 and had an active prayer life. She was active in the church’s Girls’ Auxiliary, sang solos in church and participated in the youth group.
Then Ferren told the crowd the story of Horatio Spafford, a Chicago lawyer who wrote the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” after a series of tragedies — the death of his 4-year-old son in 1871, the great Chicago fire that brought his financial ruin and the death of all four of Spafford’s daughters.
In 1873 Spafford and his family had planned to travel to Europe by ship. When a business problem forced him to stay in Chicago, he sent his wife, Anna, and daughters on ahead, planning to join them later. On the way across the Atlantic, the ship sank. Anna sent her husband a two-word telegram: “Saved alone.”
“How do you survive the sudden death and completely unexpected death of your child?” Ferren asked. It boils down to a “life lifted in faith,” he said
Hannah’s grandfather, Dr. H. Leroy Fenton, next took the stage and said, “It is indeed, well, with my soul.”
“We’re not angry, we're only grateful for 12 years and we will not bemoan what we will not have,” Dr. Fenton said. “It is quality that matters, not quantity.”
Then he added, his voice breaking: “Our little Miss Sunshine will lead the band” in heaven.
Dena Fenton recalled that Hannah’s sixth-grade English teacher, Elaine Cates, last fall asked parents to write an essay telling her about each child in her class. Mrs. Fenton read the letter at Hannah’s funeral.
Mrs. Fenton said that Hannah, who was born in Duncanville, did not speak or make sounds during her first 18 months. But when the child began speaking, she spoke full words and then full sentences.
Hannah was meticulous about keeping her room in order without prodding, Mrs. Fenton added, and she did not like restaurants where customers were treated rudely or there was food strewn about.
After the family visited the five-star Broadmoor Hotel, Hannah wrote the manager a note thanking him for the “most satisfactory hotel” she had ever visited. That brought laughs amid the tears.
Hannah’s favorite pastimes were reading and she loved to sing, Mrs. Fenton said.
“She had a song in her heart,” Hannah’s mother recalled.
She added that Hannah was the family’s “spicy” child. She loved bright clothes, sometimes in mismatched patterns, and had found “her own flavor of life.”
Hannah occasionally could be strong-willed, determined and a little bossy, her mother added, but she also loved Jesus and often invited friends to go to church with her.
Mrs. Fenton ended her part of the program by thanking Hannah’s many friends for being such a big part of her daughter’s life.
Darryl Fenton next told the audience about how Hannah spent her last weekend and that, looking back, some uncanny events had occurred.
Hannah and Chelsea, who plans to go to Texas Tech University this fall after she graduates, had spent an unusual amount of time together, playing a Wii game called “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and jumping on the trampoline that Hannah had picked out for her birthday gift. She also was excited about her father’s new riding lawn mower and rode around on it and even did some mowing.
The family attended Easter services and had gone out to eat Mexican food in Granbury afterward. Hannah ate an unusually large amount of food, her father recalled.
“God was telling her, ‘Hey, this is going to be your last meal,’” Mr. Fenton said.
That afternoon Hannah began to complain that her head was hurting. She cried out in pain and later began screaming. Then her feet went numb. Her parents called 911.
Paramedics who examined her recommended she be transported to Cooks Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth via CareFlite.
Doctors later said the base of Hannah’s brain was malformed from birth, which her family did not know, and that oxygen was being pushed out of her brain.
When the decision was made to transport her by CareFlite, Mr. Fenton arranged to be in the helicopter.
He recalled that “God began to speak to me in an incredible way” during the flight to Fort Worth.
“He was telling me that Hannah wasn’t here with us right now,” Mr. Fenton said. “I wanted to keep her here as a father. He told me I had to give her up.”
“I envy her because she’s in heaven before me,” he added.
Mr. Fenton then preached a message about the need for people to accept Christ and be “sanctified or French fried” in hell.
He and Ferren offered to help those who wanted to visit with them about accepting Christ and invited them to fill out a card before they went by the open casket to pay their last respects to Hannah.
“This community has been an incredible blessing to the family,” Ferren told the crowd as the service concluded.
Afterward Hannah was buried in Squaw Creek Cemetery in Rainbow.
In addition to her parents, sister and paternal grandfather, Hannah is survived by her paternal grandmother, Jan Fenton; maternal grandparents Jerry and Charlotte Dunn; uncles Craig Fenton, Dave Linn, Darren Dunn and Drew Dorbritz; aunts Martha Weedon, Jana Faust, Andrea Dunn, Deborah Linn and Denise Dorbritz; cousins Keene, Joe, Mykala, Kirsten, Hallie, Tucker, Aubrey, Danelie, Cole, Zeke and Zoey.
She was preceded in death by her uncle Chris Connell and cousins Alynna and Halea.
Pallbearers were Joseph Madson, Patrick Freehill, Kenne Dunn, Tanner Gaddy, Joseph McPherson and Shawn Horn. Honorary bearer was Tucker Connell.
Memorial donations may be made to Town & County Bank in Glen Rose in care of Hannah Claire Fenton for the benefit of Compassion International and Glen Rose ISD Band Program.
“One of the most difficult issues that any campus or district faces is the loss of a student,” Glen Rose ISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan said in a letter posted on the district’s Web site. “Hearts are very heavy in Glen Rose ISD and the entire Glen Rose community.”
Rotan called Hannah “a very gifted and talented young lady, full of energy, with a vibrant personality. Her smile, personality and presence will be greatly missed in Glen
Rose ISD. She was a true friend to all.
“While we all are deeply saddened by the loss of Hannah, it is also a time in which we also must pull together to provide comfort to one another and the Fenton family,” Rotan continued. “In times of adversity, the Glen Rose community has repeatedly come together to support families and individuals in need. It is difficult times like this that actually strengthen relationships and make Glen Rose a wonderful place to reside and raise your family.”