Live for today.
That’s the motto Kelly Burke lived by before she was killed in a Friday morning accident in Nacogdoches, according to close friends.
The 19-year-old was on her way to visit a friend when her car left the road and rolled on U.S. 59 south, ejecting her. She was pronounced dead at 1:50 a.m. Friday at Nacogdoches Memorial Medical Center.
Her best friends, Mattie Hardesty and Kourtney Morgan, shared memories of the girl Saturday.
“Kelly was one of a kind, and anyone who knows her would agree,” Hardesty said. “I keep thinking I’ll wake up and this nightmare will be over.”
Hardesty met Burke their freshman year of high school in Huntington. They quickly became best friends.
“She went to Huntington for a year because she was in foster care,” Hardesty said of the 2009 Central High School graduate. “I’m so glad to have known her. It has changed my life.”
Morgan was one of first to learn of her friend’s death, as Burke had been living with Morgan and her family for the last two years. She said a police officer woke her mom at 4 a.m. Friday.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Morgan said.
Introduced through mutual friends, Morgan and Burke had known each other since 2008. Morgan’s mom offered Burke a place to live to get her out of foster care, Morgan said.
“My mom was like her second mom,” she said. “Whatever Kelly needed, my mom was there.”
Burke lost her mother, Lisa Zumwalt, in December 2009. Zumwalt’s boyfriend, Raymond Wilson III, is charged with shooting Zumwalt and two other people to death in a Rivercrest trailer home.
On her MySpace page, Burke had posted a message in memory of her mother.
“RIP Mom. I love you and can’t wait to see you again someday. Not a moment goes by that I don’t think about you,” Burke wrote.
“She’s been writing her mom since she died,” Hardesty said. “We found her journal. She had been telling her mom about the murder and how mad she was about it. Recently, she wrote that she got a forgiveness book and how she’s going to try to forgive him for taking her away.”
Morgan and Burke had planned on going to the lake with Burke this weekend, but instead they are planning her funeral.
Home Depot, Burke’s place of employment, had a brisket plate fundraiser Saturday to help pay her funeral expenses. A car wash was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today at Autozone in Lufkin to raise money for funeral expenses, as well.
Funeral services for Burke were pending Saturday through Oakley-Metcalf Funeral Home in Lufkin.
Jessica Cooley’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.