Adorned in purple ribbons, about 500 mourners packed Church by the Glades in Coral Springs on Friday afternoon to celebrate the life of 17-year-old Helena Ramsay, one of 17 victims of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
Friends and family, some of whom flew to Coral Springs from Helena’s native England, attended the service, where images of Helena as a baby and with friends played on video screens. Her casket was draped in an arrangement of white, pink and purple flowers.
Born in Portsmouth, England, to Vincent and Anne Ramsay on Jan. 19, 2001, Helena moved with her family to Coral Springs at the age of 2.
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“She was quiet in nature, however Helena's loving heart spoke,” the family wrote in an obituary. “Though her full potential was not realized, she made a lasting impact in the 17 years that she lived on this earth.”
Helena’s kindness and selflessness were evident in the final moments of her life when, with the shooter advancing on her, she made sure a friend was able to fend off bullets with the only defense they could find: books. That friend, Samantha Grady, survived the shooting.
Friends have described Helena as funny, intelligent and a genuinely good person, “through and through.” Katherine Dadd, a longtime friend and neighbor, said Helena was “one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.”
At the service, Helena’s older brother, Ellis Ramsay, gave a eulogy, along with three of his longtime friends who also watched Helena grow up.
Ellis Ramsay tried to focus on the funny memories, describing a moment before Helena’s birth where he suggested his parents name her Scooby-Doo, after the cartoon detective dog. He remembers her taking pictures inside Sam’s Clubs, trying on glasses, traveling with her across the U.S. and to faraway places, including to a small island nation off the coast of Madagascar called Mauritius, and her love of sweets.
Her penchant for candy grew so strong that her room was a “landfill” of candy wrappers, her brother said.
She also cared about human rights and the environment, and served on a United Nations Club and in the Christian faith-based First Priority Group.
“Throughout this week I got to hear the stories from her classmates of who she was,” Ellis Ramsay said. “I learned that Helena was way cooler than I’ll ever be.”
The service was one of the last in a string of funerals for the victims, who lead Pastor David Hughes said he likes to call “heroes” instead.
“This will be a better country because we will take action because of these kids,” Hughes said.
Resounding applause followed.
Behind him, 17 candles were lit on the stage. The center one represented Helena, he said.
Ellis Ramsay’s friends spoke of the girl they protected like a sibling, someone who was a role model to them, and then Helena’s brother concluded with one statement.
“Helena died a hero,” he said.