Candlelight vigil held for victim of Athol homicide 

  • Friends and relatives of Kelsey Clifford gathered for a vigil Sunday night to remember the Athol homicide victim. —Greg Vine

  • Friends and relatives of Kelsey Clifford gathered for a vigil Sunday night to remember the Athol homicide victim. —Greg Vine

  • Friends and relatives of Kelsey Clifford gathered for a vigil Sunday night to remember the Athol homicide victim. —Greg Vine

  • A picture of Kelsey Gifford with her young son adorned a table at Sunday's vigil. —Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/17/2019 8:53:51 PM
Modified: 11/17/2019 8:53:49 PM

LEOMINSTER – Temperatures may have been at or below freezing, but the love of many friends and relatives served to warm the hearts of the Leominster family who lost one of its most treasured members to an Athol homicide. Easily 80 people gathered for a candlelight vigil at the former Sargent Street home of Kelsey Clifford early Sunday evening to remember and pay tribute to a young woman whose life was tragically cut short at the hands of an as-yet unidentified suspect; her body was found Monday, Nov. 11, near the entrance to Athol’s wastewater treatment plant on Jones Street.

The office of Northwest District Attorney David Sullivan confirmed Thursday that the death of the 26-year-old woman was indeed a homicide. The DA’s office has yet to confirm the cause of death, which is being determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

But those gathered in the cold Sunday night chose not to dwell on the way Kelsey Clifford died, but the way she had lived and the lives she had touched.

Clifford’s aunt, Diana Clifford Ownes, told the Athol Daily News she wanted people to remember Kelsey was “the sunshine of everybody’s life.”

“When she was a little girl,” she said, “she was beautiful growing up, she had beautiful blue eyes, blond hair, and always had a big, huge smile on her face. That’s how we will always remember Kelsey. We’re going to miss having her physical presence and her smile. She had a very loving personality. She was always laughing and always smiling.”

At Sunday’s vigil, family friend Dayna Hume said, “I think this gathering is a wonderful symbol of the love people have for Kelsey, for the love that they have for the family.”

Then, in prayer, Hume said those gathered knew that Kelsey was now in Heaven, “and we pray, God, that you’ll wrap your loving arms around her family and her friends during this very, very difficult time.”

A friend of Clifford’s then recalled how Kelsey had welcomed her to a new a school after she had moved to the area and, during a particularly difficult time in the friend’s life, how Clifford had talked her out of committing suicide.

“She was so important to me and I’m really going to miss her,” she said.

A relative, Christopher Reed, who traveled from Newburyport to attend the vigil, remembered how, as a young girl, Kelsey Clifford loved the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” how she would dress up like Dorothy and sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’

“The last time I saw her was about two weeks ago,” said Reed. “As I was leaving, I said ‘I love you’ to her and she said ‘I love you’ to me. That’s how I want people to remember Kelsey. And I know Kelsey would want each of us to remember that we need to love one another. I know that’s what she would want.”

After the vigil, Reed told the Athol Daily News he hopes the person who took Clifford’s life can be tracked down quickly.

“I really think about that a lot,” he said. “I really, really hope they find whoever did this soon. I think about that a lot.”

Clifford’s death remains under investigation by the State Police assigned to the District Attorney’s office and the Athol Police Department.

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