ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Hannah Graham was so smart that when her high school teacher was grading tests and came across a wrong answer, she would check the answer key and make sure there wasn’t some kind of mistake. As often as not, the answer key was wrong, not Graham.
Stories about Graham’s intelligence, dry humor and an unbridled zeal for life abounded Saturday at a memorial service billed as a celebration of Graham’s life. Graham was a sophomore at the University of Virginia when she went missing in September near its campus, prompting a monthlong search that ended in tragedy. Her remains were found just miles from where she was last seen in Charlottesville.
The teacher who shared that story, Nicole Borghard, told nearly 1,000 people gathered Saturday that teachers at West Potomac High School would scan their class rosters at the start of the school year, hoping for the opportunity to teach a student whose reputation preceded her, “the smart, sassy Hannah Graham.”
A former hospital orderly, Jesse Matthew, has been charged with abducting Graham and could face additional charges. Authorities say DNA evidence has also linked Matthew to a 2005 sexual assault and the 2009 disappearance and death of Virginia Tech Student Morgan Harrington.
The focus of the memorial at her former high school was on Graham and her life — the softball player, saxophonist and student with a buoyant personality and a droll British wit. She had moved to Virginia from England as a kindergartner.
Friends Rachel Campbell and Hannah O’Neil remembered making smores over a campfire with Graham, a first for her, and her insistence on “bringing her own British chocolate because Hershey’s was not up to her standards.”
Teacher Allison Satterwhite talked about how Graham relished the opportunity to correct her teachers in a way that still managed to be endearing, recalling a hallway encounter in which the teacher was lecturing a group of students for causing a commotion in the hallway. Graham happened by and let the teacher know that “disruptional” was not a word.
“She had a great wit — it could be snarky at times but that’s what we loved about her,” said her band teacher, Steve Rice, who shared stories about Graham’s love of Elvis songs and her lighthearted annoyance at playing pieces that featured the clarinet section over the saxophones.
Her parents, John and Sue Graham, thanked the community for the support they have given the family — thousands of people turned out to help in searches for Graham, and the family’s neighborhood in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County for weeks was covered in yellow ribbons in hopes that she would come home safely.
“Hannah was always able to steal the show,” her father said. “We think she would have made important contributions to society in the years ahead.”
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