Teri Leiker’s mother penned a letter to her daughter in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.
Her words, read aloud Friday at a public memorial service by a longtime family friend, personified a community’s painful reckoning. Hundreds were gathered inside the CU Events Center.
“I miss her in so many ways,” Leiker friend John Stavely said, relaying the mother’s message. “Hearing her say when she got in the car, ‘Mom, look at those Flatirons. I’m so lucky to live here.’ I will miss, after an outing, dropping her off at home. Her smiling face and dimpled cheek I can no longer plant a kiss on. To tell her how much I love her and that you are my sweet, sweet girl.
“She would smile and say: I know.”
Leiker, 51, was one of 10 people fatally shot March 22 at a Boulder King Soopers grocery store. Diagnosed with mild cognitive difficulties at a young age, Leiker worked as a courtesy clerk at the Table Mesa Drive location for 31 years.
“She was one of the best baggers they ever had,” said Sheri Bosman, Leiker’s former manager at King Soopers. “She always came to work with her name tag and her uniform. She always wanted one of us to make sure she looked good when she came down. She was reliable. I can’t remember when she missed (work).”
Family, friends, and other former coworkers reflected on her legacy during the two-hour memorial service. Many of Leiker’s personal items — a Longmont High School diploma, Special Olympics medals, a Denver Broncos football and more — were displayed near the arena’s entrance.
Fred Hobbs, the director of public relations for Imagine!, a Boulder-based nonprofit that assists people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, lauded Leiker’s independence, which included owning her own condo.
“She was a success story by any measure,” Hobbs said. “Imagine’s mission is to create a world of opportunity for all abilities. Teri was the living embodiment of that mission. … Teri was a role model, not just for the people we served at Imagine, but for those of us who worked at Imagine as well. Teri was about possibility, not limitations.”
Leiker was known for her love of karaoke — specifically during open-mic nights at The Dark Horse Bar and Grill in Boulder.
“She could be found sitting with friends, picking a song and getting excited to get on stage,” said Mikii Schoech, Leiker’s longtime friend and Boulder resident. “Going to The Dark Horse seems routine, but people remember her there singing.
“I’ve had people reach out to me from my credit union, Facebook, and distant friends to tell me stories of seeing Teri singing at the Darkhorse. That’s a memory that people will hold close, and I know many will not be able to go to the Dark Horse now without thinking of Teri.”
Leiker also adored the University of Colorado’s Golden Buffalo Marching Band and her legacy is expected to be honored well into the future. A CU College of Music advisory board member donated $10,000 to start the Teri Leiker Memorial Marching Band Scholarship — to be granted to a student with “tons of school spirit” to honor Leiker’s passion. If $25,000 or more is raised, the scholarship will be endowed.
“In many ways, Teri was the heartbeat of this community,” CU marching band director Matt Dockendorf said. “It’s obvious here by the gathering today that she touched so many of your lives.”
Among those in attendance Friday and also spoke were Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, Boulder police Chief Maris Herold, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty and Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver.
“(Leiker) had a lot more joy to give,” Polis said. “But for the life of Teri, and for the life of the nine others who faced unimaginable evil that day, we know that we can’t let that evil win. We know that we have to dig deep inside and remember the great joy, the powerful spirit, and the inspirational force which she gave.”
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