The front of the program for the funeral service read: “The Stay Family. Stephen, Katie, Cassidy, Bryan, Emily, Rebecca & Zachary. Est. Dec 27th 1997-Eternity. Families Can Be Together Forever.” Six of the family members were eulogized and honored Wednesday, July 16, at 2 p.m. at the Hafer Road LDS Chapel in Houston, Texas, while Cassidy, 15, the eldest of the children and sole survivor, surrounded by relatives, mourned and remembered.
Stephen and Katie Stay and four of their children were shot to death July 9, allegedly by the ex-husband of a sister to Katie Stay. Cassidy, who was wounded, played dead until the gunman left. She called 911, an action that authorities believe saved the lives of her grandparents and other relatives.
Amid laughter and tears the lives of the deceased members of the Stay family were celebrated. Six matching white caskets stretched across the entire front of the chapel, each topped with a spray of flowers in vivid colors. Poster-sized close-up photos of the couple and each of the four children were placed on the stand behind the caskets, a smiling reminder of the eternal nature of families. Family members filled the center section of the chapel and were joined by first responders from the Harris County EMS and Sheriff’s Department. Over 1,200 friends and neighbors crowded into the Hafer Road chapel, while the service was broadcast to a nearby elementary school and also to the Louetta chapel.
Stephen, 39, son of Thomas and Joyce Stay, was the youngest born to his parents. Stephen grew up on a 20-acre California orange grove and learned the value of hard work, love at home and service. He served a Cambodian and Laotian-speaking mission in Texas. “Love at home was not just a phrase on a wall, it was what he lived,” said a brother, Roger Stay. “He was eternally committed to Katie.”
Katie Lyon Stay, 34, daughter of Roger and Kelly Lyon, was the oldest of six siblings. She was noted for loving to throw parties, talented in crafts, always caring for others and holding extended family together. Aubrey Westwood, a sister of Katie, told of how Katie and another sister, Melanie, would carpool with their children. On the way to school, the song they played the most was “It’s a Good Day to Have a Good Day,” by LDS artist Hilary Weeks. “That is what Katie would want us to remember today,” Sister Westwood said.
In 2009 the family moved to Spring, a northern suburb of Houston. Stephen served as elders quorum president and both he and Katie were service oriented. Just recently after visiting with a neighbor, Katie asked if she could come back and help weed, and she did. The family was actively involved in T-ball for special needs children.
Bryan, 13, was a deacon, loved to pass the sacrament and enjoyed Scouting, music and his tablet.
Emily, 9, who was in choir, loved to sing and adored Hello Kitty.
Rebecca, 7, or “Becca-boo,” watched out for Zach and was full of life. Because she was so petite, she worried that when Zach grew bigger than she was, she would be the last child.
Zachary, 4, loved super heroes of all kinds and joined with Dad and sister Cassidy in an affinity for crazy cat videos.
Katie Stay’s father, Roger Lyon, asked in the invocation that “we know of the good” that can come from this tragedy and to “be good neighbors as they were.”
“The one thing we’ve learned through this is that the world is a good place,” said Randy Cousins, an uncle, as he presented the life sketch during the service.
Bishop Scott McBride of the Westfield Ward reminisced about each of the family members. Speaking to Cassidy, Bishop McBride said, “You have a family of guardian angels and a family in this community who love you, looking over you.”
He thanked the first responders along with the Church and community members who have come forward to help. In response to those asking what they can do, Bishop McBride said, “I would ask everyone here to seek out ways to help each other.”
Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Second Quorum of the Seventy told Cassidy, “I’ve been asked to represent Church members all over the world who mourn with you.” Elder Foster shared a letter to Cassidy from the First Presidency. He added, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day. Cassidy, you are a sermon. In a world that doesn’t believe in families – you are teaching them that families can be together forever.”
A private interment followed the 90-minute funeral service.