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‘Beautiful smile’: Friends hold vigil to remember transgender woman

October 18th, 2015 Posted in Opinion

By Rebecca Wheatley

SMITHFIELD — When her friends think about Ashley Hallstrom, the first thing that comes to mind is her smile.

“It was a beautiful smile,” said Deborah Roper, Hallstrom’s coworker. “I will never forget it.”

Friends, coworkers and strangers came out Saturday to remember Ashley Hallstrom (Rebecca Wheatley photo)

Friends, coworkers and strangers came out Saturday to remember Ashley Hallstrom. (Rebecca Wheatley photo)

At a vigil Saturday night in Smithfield’s Central Park, some 70 friends and community members came together to remember the 26-year-old transgender woman, who took her own life this week when she walked in front of a dump truck on U.S. Hwy. 89/91 in South Logan.

SeeHer name was Ashley: ‘Please share my final words,’” by Amy Macavinta, The Logan Herald Journal

Friends, coworkers and some who had never met Hallstrom lit candles to honor her life, and told stories to celebrate the good memories.

Holly Glover, who worked with Hallstrom at Convergys, planned the vigil. Glover said she was grateful for all who turned out to honor Hallstrom’s life and to support her friends and family who are grieving.

“Ashley would want us to continue,” Glover said. “She would want us to love one another and support one another.”

Hallstrom was struck and killed by a dump truck in South Logan on Wednesday, hours after posting a message on Facebook explaining why she had decided to commit suicide. The message went viral and received national attention.

“From a very young age, I was told that people like me are freaks and abominations, that we are sick in the head and society hates us,” she wrote. “This made me hate who I was. I tried so hard to be just like everyone else but this isn’t something you can change.”

“These are going to be my final words,” her Facebook post said. “I can’t stand to live another day, so I’m committing suicide. The reason why I’ve decided to do this is because I’m transgender.”

Hallstrom went on to say that while being transgender had made her happy, she felt unwelcome in her community.

“Everywhere I’d turn I’d see the hatred that society had for us,” Hallstrom wrote. “I had already been poisoned by a society that didn’t understand us and, even worse, didn’t want to even try.”

Hallstrom ended her post by asking others to share her story.

Ashley Hallstrom’s Facebook photo

Ashley Hallstrom’s Facebook photo

“I don’t want to be just another number of a tragic statistic,” Hallstrom wrote. “People need to know that I’m not just another face of someone they never met. I was alive. I have a family and friends that I love very much and I’m so sorry to them for the hurt this will cause them.”

Sue Robbins, a transgender woman, drove up from Salt Lake City to support Hallstrom’s friends and family. She said she was moved by Hallstrom’s plea to share her story.

“She wants her story shared because it will lead to understanding,” Robbins said. “And understanding leads to acceptance.”

Glover said she was overwhelmed by all of the love and support from people in the community, including many who had never met Ashley, but were touched by her story.

“This has been an eye-opening experience for me,” Glover said. “It has helped me realize how much saying hi or a simple smile can make a difference in someone else’s life.”

Glover said she had originally planned to have the vigil at Hallstrom’s mother’s house in Smithfield, but moved it to Central Park out of respect for the family’s privacy.

Hallstrom was living in Logan and working at Convergys. Many of her coworkers were at the vigil to share their memories.

Anne-Marie Griffin was Hallstrom’s boss at Convergys. She said Hallstrom was really funny, and it was a complete joy to be around her.

Griffin said this has been a devastating loss for her because Hallstrom had been part of her team, which had come to feel more like her family.

“From this, I have learned to reach out to others,” Griffin said. “We need to learn from this and become better people.”

RaLee Jewell, who also worked at Convergys, said that although she had not been close to Hallstrom, she was devastated by this tragedy.

“To know that she was feeling this way breaks my heart,” Jewell said. “She was a beautiful person and she started a change.”

Jewell also set up a GoFundMe account for Hallstrom’s family to cover burial costs.

TP

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  1. 2 Responses to “‘Beautiful smile’: Friends hold vigil to remember transgender woman”

  2. By Holly Glover on Oct 19, 2015

    Thank you Rebecca for being there and helping us honor Ashley

  3. By Justin Gilbreath on Oct 20, 2015

    If anyone is ever in a situation where they feel like Ashley did,

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ashleysinspiration/

    https://www.facebook.com/unsilencedawarness?fref=ts

    You are not Alone.

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