PORT ANGELES — Parents held their crying children close as more than 100 people mourned Valerie Kambeitz and her children Lilly Kambeitz, 9, Emma Kambeitz, 6, and Jayden Kambeitz, 5, during a vigil in their honor Monday.
Many held candles and flowers as they gathered at the Port Angeles City Pier, a place family friend Holly Wright said was Kambeitz’s favorite place to take her kids.
Many of those who attended knew Kambeitz from her time volunteering at the Port Angeles Food Bank, where Kambeitz “gave herself when she served,” said former director Jessica Hernandez.
Hernandez described Kambeitz as a loving woman who cared for others and especially cared for her children. She was gentle, tender, sweet and soft, Hernandez said.
“Anybody who knew Val knew immediately upon meeting her how big her heart was,” she said. “She was humble and loving and we’re all going to miss her.”
Valerie and her three children are presumed dead after the remains of four people were found in their charred home at the Welcome Inn RV Park on Saturday.
Kambeitz’s husband since May, Matthew Timothy Wetherington, 34, is accused to killing all four and setting the mobile home on fire. On Monday he was ordered held in the Clallam County jail on $5 million bail and prosecutors are expected to file charges of arson and four counts of aggravated first-degree murder Wednesday.
Wright, a longtime family friend, gave a statement to reporters on behalf of the family Monday. She said family members are devastated and were not able to attend the vigil.
“This has been a very, very crushing blow to the family,” said Wright, who has known the Kambeitz family since 1992.
“I just keep thinking about her babies,” Hernandez said. “I’m a mom with two small kids myself, so it’s hard to imagine someone wanting to hurt children and their mother. I’m definitely losing sleep.”
Hernandez said Valerie was one of the first volunteers she worked with when she started at the Food Bank six years ago.
“All she ever spoke about was her kids,” Hernandez said. “Her kids were her pride and joy. That is what she lived for. She was a tremendous mother and did a lot for them.”
Sapphire, a 9-year-old girl, wrote these letters to Valerie Kambeitz, and her children Lilly, Emma and Jayden. She read her letters during the vigil. pic.twitter.com/VMqQsdlesg— Jesse Major (@jessemajor) July 9, 2019
Sapphire Batton, one of Lilly’s friends, stood on the stage at the pier and shared letters that she wrote for Kambeitz and the three children.
“Lilly, it’s hard to say goodbye,” she wrote. “I never thought I’d be saying goodbye to you like this. You never think it’s going to be the last time.
“You were my best friend and I never thought I’d be losing you.”
She wrote that Kambeitz was “such a good and nice mom.”
“You were so hard working and always took good care of your kids,” Sapphire wrote. “They were so nice and happy and loved you so much.”
Lilly and Emma most recently attended Jefferson Elementary School, but Lilly had previously attended Franklin Elementary.
Lilly’s first-grade teacher Sarah Schaefermeyer, said Lilly had impeccable attendance and she would always see the whole family.
“I just have nice memories of Valerie coming in every day, walking Lilly in every day with Emma and Jayden with her,” Schaefermeyer said. “They would visit every morning. They were excited to be there and always on time.”
Schaefermeyer said Lilly was one of the first kids to participate in a garden project at the school.
“She was really positive, kind and just a really sweet girl,” she said. “Always worked really hard and tried really hard and was nice to be around.”
Schaefermeyer said she is still in shock that all four are gone.
“It’s devastating and I feel so bad for their family,” she said. “I will always treasure that time of having her and getting to know them.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].