Diane Rowe reads a poem in memory of her father at the Missouri Missing and Parents of Murdered Children’s dove release Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 for the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims at McKay Park in Jefferson City. Rowe’s father was murdered by her son, who she visits weekly. Photo by Annie Rice / News Tribune.



Mid-Missouri survivors of homicide victims plan to gather Saturday to honor and memorialize the lives of loved ones stolen through murder.

The annual event — Saturday’s planned memorial potluck picnic at McKay Park would be the 13th​​ observance — is open to the public, along with “all survivors of homicide victims, survivors of vehicular homicide victims and professionals who are in frequent contact with grieving families,” according to a news release.

Nancy Whitmarsh said about 20-25 people have usually attended each year’s local event for the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, jointly commemorated by the Central Missouri Area Wide Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children Inc. and Missouri Missing.

Whitmarsh is the Central Missouri chapter leader for Parents of Murdered Children. Her first husband was also murdered — shot twice — in a gas station holdup in 1981.

“What we want to do is just for everyone to realize that our family members lived and that we still love them and they’ll always be a part of our lives. It reminds us also that we’re not alone and that there are many people out there trying to help us — victim advocates, law enforcement and prosecutors who on a daily basis help us out, trying to seek justice on behalf of our families,” Whitmarsh said.

The Central Missouri Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children serves people as far away as Rolla and Springfield, she said.

It’s a support group, not involved with political issues such as the death penalty or gun control, she added. “We’re basically here to help people share their grief.”

Although the event planned for Saturday is the chapter’s biggest event each year, there’s also usually a Christmas dinner in Jefferson City, and the group has victim impact panels as part of restorative justice programs inside the Algoa, Jefferson City and Moberly correctional centers, Whitmarsh said.

The memorial picnic Saturday will be held at McKay Park, 1700 Southridge Drive in Jefferson City, starting at noon. A release of doves will follow the picnic.

Whitmarsh can be contacted for more information at 573-443-7735.

On the web:

More information about Parents of Murdered Children is available at pomc.org, and information on the local chapter is available at pomc.org/chapters/central_missouri.html.

More information about Missouri Missing — a nonprofit that supports loved ones of missing persons and raises awareness for families of missing persons — is available at missourimissing.org.

By Phillip Sitter | News Tribune