CHARLEE WALTON March 10, 2011 – Jan. 19, 2018
KARLY PEARCE June 25, 2011 – Jan. 23, 2018
Two little girls
Sparkling blue eyes. Fabulous smiles. Mischievous little sisters. Though they never met in person, Karly Pearce and Charlee Walton had many similarities. Heartbreakingly, the 6-year-olds are linked for one more reason: their young lives were unexpectedly cut short in January 2018.
Charlee Elizabeth Walton was an imaginative little girl. She loved to play with her baby dolls, which she named Hogsquatch and Rescue Tinda. Her own play name was not as unique.
“She would say my name is Susan,” parents Chad and Chelsea Walton remember with a laugh.
Charlee and her sister Channing also liked to make videos under the stage names Cheeky Charlie and Unicorns Are Still Alive. She was an active girl, riding bikes and scooters with friends and had recently begun gymnastics classes. She loved singing, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” was a favorite tune.
Chad and Chelsea say she would try anything, and she was always complimentary.
“She would say ‘Mom, this is the best dinner,’ even if it was leftover meatloaf.”
A first-grader at Butler Elementary in Springfield, Charlee absolutely loved going to school. She never wanted to miss a day. The Butler community felt the same about her.
“At school, everyone knew who she was,” says Chad. “She had a bubbly personality and was kind to everyone.”
A bright pink bench right next to the playground has been dedicated in Charlee’s honor.
Pink, along with Cubby Blue, was also a favorite color of Karly Ann Pearce.
Pink and blue bow wreaths now line the street of her home in Chatham, a symbol of the community’s ongoing support of the Pearce family.
“Her story brought people together, brought people into church,” says Karly’s dad, Ryan.
Karly had a knack for bringing out the best in people. She would often check out Glenwood Elementary’s Buddy Bench to make sure all students had someone to play with.
“We would talk about the bench and Karly said she was always willing to find a friend,” says her mom, Kim.
The first-grader was also a little helper at home, keeping her room nice and tidy, even making sure everyone’s shoes were organized in the closet. She like to play school with her sister Reagan and wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be a teacher.
“She would teach her sister letters, and pretend she was giving instructions on how to go through the lunch line.”
Reagan says Karly loved playing with Play-Doh, Barbies, her American Girl Doll, and her beloved Puppy, who was always nearby. Favorite books included the Frog & Toad series, as well as the Danny & Bee books. She was also a dedicated dancer. Karly practiced her routine to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to make sure she got it just right.
Karly loved spending time with her grandparents. She would rush to greet them with a big hug no matter where they were. Her sense of happiness was contagious.
Ryan says Karly was his “little farmer.” At just three months old she was riding with him in a combine.
“I would be getting up early and she would ask, ‘Can I come to the farm with you today?’ And she would sit there, on the tractor or semi and just enjoy our time together.”
Karly’s final resting place is near the farm Ryan works, so he is able to visit her and Puppy often. Though some days are harder than others, he says he’d “do it all again.”
The silver lining in the girls’ deaths is that their parents have become good friends, sharing the emotional roller coaster of life as they each mourn one daughter and raise another daughter. Through Real Life Church, Chad & Chelsea and Ryan & Kim have reached out to other parents who are experiencing what they went through, in the hopes of providing some comfort and guidance.
“There’s no book on it. Or at least no good one,” says Kim. It’s a club no parent wants to join, but the Waltons and Pearces want others to know that “they’re not alone, there is tomorrow.”
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of a child’s death is not knowing what might have been. With the talent and personality Charlee and Karly possessed, whatever they chose to do, they were going to be amazing.
“She was going to do things,” Chad explains. “This kid was going to be great.”
With the passing of young Charlee and Karly, it may appear that life is unfair, that perhaps we should just be pessimists and expect the worst. But these two girls brought out the good in our community. They treated others as we all should. The world is a brighter, kinder, happier place because of Karly and Charlee.
Jessica McGee is the Brand Coordinator at Staab Funeral Homes. She’s taking the advice of the Waltons and Pearces to take a break from the busyness of life and enjoy the small moments with her loved ones.