LAKE WYLIE -- Some wore dress shirts and ties. Others wore shorts and baseball hats. They all laughed, cried and hugged over the loss of a friend who had touched so many.
More than 700 people came to New River Community Church on Wednesday to say goodbye to 13-year-old Hunter Holt, one of three people who died in a weekend crash on N.C. 49 near the Buster Boyd Bridge.
Funeral services also were held Wednesday in Charlotte for Winthrop University assistant professor Cynthia Furr, 45, and her 2-year-old daughter, McAllister, who also were killed in the wreck.
The crowd was so big at Hunter's funeral that the church moved about 250 people to a second room after the 300-seat sanctuary filled to capacity. Around 200 more listened shoulder to shoulder in the church's lobby, while a loudspeaker brought the service to a half-dozen people standing outside.
“It's awesome to see the testimony Hunter had, the friendships,” said the Rev. Tony Trainer, Hunter's youth minister.
Hunter, an eighth-grade student at Clover Junior High School, was remembered as a great athlete and a great friend, someone who made it his mission to make people laugh.
“Everything he did was built around that,” Trainer said. “If somebody else was down, he'd take the opportunity to crack a joke.”
Many of Hunter's classmates attended the service in traditional dress clothes, but others wore items that reflected the casual personality for which Hunter was known.
Friends laughed as Trainer recalled Hunter's quirks, such as his illegible handwriting and his trademark lime green high-tops.
Trainer said he recently asked Hunter where he could get a pair of the “ugly” shoes for himself.
“You're not worthy to wear these shoes,” the quick-witted Hunter shot back.
As an athlete, Hunter excelled at football and baseball, winning an all-conference award in the fall for his performance as an offensive lineman on the eighth-grade football team. He dreamed of playing wide receiver for the University of North Carolina, Trainer said.
Hunter's impact on his classmates was evident Monday when 40 of them voluntarily served the lunchtime detention that Hunter had been assigned before his death.
“I thought that was one of the neatest things I've ever seen,” he said.
The youth pastor said his most encouraging memory of Hunter is that he was a Christian.
“Because Hunter gave his life to Christ, this is a celebration service,” he said. “He's with his creator, his savior.”
The Rev. Arthur Mace, pastor at New River Community Church, said there are no easy answers for why Hunter had to die so young. But God works in all situations, even tragic ones, and turns them into something positive for believers, Mace said.
“There is great heartbreak today, and it hurts. And it's OK that it hurts,” Mace said. “But I know that God loves you, and there is nothing, nothing, nothing you can do to be separated from God.”
After the service, many of Hunter's friends cried and hugged as they gathered outside the church. Still, others couldn't help but smile as they remembered him.
“He knew how to make anyone laugh. He was just always really funny,” said 14-year-old Nicole Elmiger, who dated Hunter briefly last year. “I've never heard anyone say anything bad about him. He really knew his priorities and always knew the right thing to say at the right time. You could always trust him.”
Another classmate, Lauren Shannon, 14, said Hunter set an example for others.
“Live life to the fullest,” she said, “and never waste a day.”
Kristin Queen, one of Hunter's close friends, spoke during the service and called him “such a strong and courageous person.”
“You never do realize what you have until it's gone,” she said. “I love you, Hunter.”