A mother remembers

‘Heather’s life ended and mine will never be the same.’

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Scott Campbell, of Des Moines, at left, is comforted by his dad, Doug Campbell, as Vicki Campbell speaks about the loss of her daughter, Heather Campbell, during the 2017 Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center domestic violence candlelight vigil at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Dodge. Heather Campbell was killed on June 11, 2010.

There are ways of coping with losing a loved one to domestic violence.

Vicki Campbell said she decided to honor the memory of her daughter, Heather Campbell, by healing and finding strength.

Vicki Campbell was the keynote speaker at the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center’s annual candlelight vigil to honor and remember those who were killed by domestic violence.

“There are many different ways to survive domestic violence,” Campbell said. “Depression and isolation, alcohol and drugs, blaming and hatred. Or you can flourish, prosper and grow.”

Heather Campbell and her friend, Paige Gallo, were killed at a home near Lake City by Gallo’s fiance, Luke Schleisman, who then committed suicide.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Jacqui McCollum, of Fort Dodge, is comforted by Virginia Campbell, of Urbandale, after reading the sign on her granddaughter, Jessica Gomez's silhuette at the 2017 Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center domestic violence candlelight vigil at St. Paul Lutheran Church. Gomez is the most recent red silhuette at the event, she was killed on August 5, 2017. Her younger brother, Shiloh Halbur, 12, joined McCollum.

The murder-suicide happened on June 11, 2010.

Vicki Campbell said her daughter met Gallo just four days before. Both were at Des Moines Area Community College and had class together.

Campbell said her daughter had gone with Gallo that weekend to do some studying for class.

“Although she had only known Paige for a few short days, she already considered her a friend,” Campbell said. “That night, our Heather became an innocent domestic violence victim who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Vicki Campbell said her daughter wanted to stay and protect her friend.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Laurine and Ed Pirie, of Pocahontas, light a candle for their daughter, Gina Abens, during the 2017 Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center Domestic Violence Candlelight Vigil Thursday evening at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

“We will never know exactly what happened that night,” she said. “Only that Heather chose not to abandon her new friend in the face of trouble.

“Heather’s life ended and mine will never be the same.”

Vicki Campbell said her daughter had a big heart and cared about countless people.

“Heather loved school and she loved learning, but she often missed class in high school because someone turned to her in need,” Vicki Campbell said. “Maybe it was a best friend who had a fight with her mom, or because she found a stranger in the bathroom crying alone. Heather always considered it an honor to be able to help anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

Heather Campbell was studying for her nursing degree, and had dreamed of becoming a behavioral specialist working with autistic children.

That, in part, helped Vicki Campbell and her family cope with the loss. They created a scholarship for DMACC that is given to a student “who shares Heather’s love of caring for others.”

Additionally, every year the Campbell family participates in the state autism walk on a team named Angels of Solitude, which is a name that Heather Campbell came up with.

Vicki Campbell said her faith in God also helped her cope with her daughter’s murder.

“I envision Heaven as a beautiful garden of paradise,” she said. “I imagine Heather on an eternal vacation with her grandfather and others. Other loved ones who have gone before her.”

Thursday night’s vigil also marked a point in Campbell’s healing. She said she didn’t originally want to speak.

“But I agreed to because I know getting up here is just another step in my healing process.”

While that process continues, Campbell said she will never forget her daughter.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Heather and I wonder who you’d be today,” she said. “I always thought that a domestic violence survivor was a victim who got away. But I learned that a survivor is anyone who is affected by domestic violence and lives through it.”

“The challenge is not to survive because of what happened, but to thrive in spite of what happened,” she added. “And to ensure the light of the victims’ lives continues to shine through us all.”