Mourners overflow chuch for funeral of Mennonite family

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DAYTON, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral yesterday for four members of a Mennonite family who died when they were overcome by methane gas on their Shenandoah Valley dairy farm.

Scott Showalter, 34; his wife Phyllis, 33; two of the couple’s four daughters, Christina, 9, and Shayla, 11; and farmhand Amous Stoltzfus, 24, died Monday after entering a manure pit.

Services for Mr. Stoltzfus were held a day earlier. His body, a pastor said, was sent to his native Pennsylvania.

Yesterday, as many horse-drawn buggies as motorized vehicles parked along the cornfields that line the road to the family’s little brick church in Dayton.

At least 100 people sat inside Bank Mennonite Church while speakers broadcast the service to about 400 more waiting outside. Giant billowy tents, each nearly as large as the church itself, offered respite from the afternoon rain as a half-dozen speakers reminisced about the family.

An underlined passage was read from Mrs. Showalter’s Bible, which she received from her parents as a teenager.

Poems from Christina and Shayla also were read. The girls told playful stories of kittens and harvest time, and one recalled how their father read the girls Bible stories at bedtime.

The couple’s two younger daughters, Brooklyn and Alyssa, are in the care of relatives.

Three hours after the funeral began, pallbearers emerged with four coffins to lead a procession to the cemetery.

The rain had finally ended.

Sunshine streamed through the clouds and, at the closing of each grave, the congregation sang.

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