People close to Katelyn Self led a big crowd through laughter and tears at her funeral Sunday, three weeks after she was killed by a Jeep that drove into her family's table at a Bessemer City restaurant. Police say her father was behind the wheel.
Self, 26, a corporal in the Gaston County Sheriff's Office, was engaged to marry Gastonia Police Officer Alex Burns in September.
He'd bought a wedding and engagement ring set for her in the spring. She was so excited to accept his proposal, her sister Taylor Potter said, that she didn't even notice that he accidentally gave her the wedding band with no diamond.
"That boy could have picked up a piece of grass from the yard and made it a circle, and she would've said yes," Potter said.
Self's lost potential — the leadership she would have taken on at the Gaston County Jail where she worked and the marriage she would have built with Burns — brought the congregation at Gastonia's First Assembly of God Church to tears on Sunday.
Burns called her "my supposed-to-be wife" and said she was the only woman he'd known who accepted him for himself. The family's pastor at Venture Church, Austin Rammell, wore a red tie to the funeral because he'd told Self he would wear a red tie to her wedding.
Several members of Self's family were still using wheelchairs at her funeral. They were injured in the same crash that killed Self and her sister-in-law, Amanda Self.
Katelyn Self's father, Roger, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after officials said he intentionally drove the Jeep into the restaurant. Shortly after the crash, Rammell said Roger was dealing with mental illness. He was not mentioned at the funeral.
Dozens of church pews were filled with Self's law enforcement colleagues, who formed an honor line as the funeral ended.
One of her supervisors at the jail, Sgt. Scott Shirley, read a message from another employee at the sheriff's office who said Self had mentored her and helped her move ahead in law enforcement.
Shirley also said Self never missed an opportunity to make fun of him, especially his southern accent and clumsiness.
"She was always the life of the party and the life of B shift," he said.
Shirley said Self always talked about cooking dinner for Burns on her days off, but her colleagues at the jail were never positive she could actually cook. They remembered the time when Self volunteered to bring in Buffalo chicken dip for a potluck at work.
"We told everybody all the food was ready ... unbeknownst to the captain and I, the ingredients for her dip were still in the original packages in a Walmart bag, sitting beside the Crock-Pot," he said.
Self kept everyone laughing, Shirley said. Her fiancé agreed, saying Self never stopped talking or dancing.
"If I could learn to love people — or just one person — the way she loved not only me but everyone around her ... I'll have done something," Burns said.