FORT PLAIN - After almost 10 years serving her country, Staff Sgt. Emily Elizabeth Clayburn was laid to rest Monday afternoon after a ceremony with full military honors.
Recalled by her family as a friendly, outgoing young woman, she was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery in Fonda on Monday after a funeral attended by about 100 people at Our Lady of Hope Roman Catholic Church in Fort Plain. Clayburn, 29, died Jan. 14 in an industrial accident at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
Air Force Lt. Col. Collin S. Gilbert, Clayburn's commander in the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said he had served with Clayburn for seven months.
Members of the Patriot Riders stand at attention Monday during the funeral of Staff Sgt. Emily Elizabeth Clayburn, a Palatine woman who passed away last week as an active serviceman in the Air Force.
The Leader-Herald/ Arthur Cleveland
"She was delightful," Gilbert said. "I saw her mature into a dedicated airman."
Pete Rose, funeral director for the Lenz & Betz Funeral Home, opened the ceremony.
"On behalf of the entire Clayburn family, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for coming here today to show your love and support and to honor the life of Emily," Rose said. " ... I ask that you not only keep the family in your hearts and minds today, but also the coming weeks and months ahead."
Rose described Clayburn as "dying the way she lived: everyone's friend."
The Rev. Dennis Murphy said while there are no easy answers about an untimely death, the one thing that had drawn all of Clayburn's family together was still there.
"That is the only reason we are here today: Our faith," Murphy said.
Murphy said Monday was not a day of mourning, but a day to give thanks - "To be able to say to God, 'Thank you, for the gift of this person.'"
Murphy said he does not have any children and could not say what it feels like to lose a child, but he compared the Clayburn's pain with what Christians say Mary felt when she saw Jesus dead: "Like a sword had pierced her heart."
Jen Clayburn, the airman's cousin, said it was difficult to condense 30 years of her cousin's life to a few words, but she would always remember her laughs and the two fighting over cheesecake chunks in an ice cream container. The crowd laughed as Jen Clayburn talked about the time they had planned to go to camp together and shared inside jokes she and the family had.
Jill Clayburn, another cousin, said her cousin would always fuss about Jill's hair, braiding it and teasing it.
"She is going to be missed by me and the gang," Jill said. According to the family, Emily was always very close with her cousins.
Paul Clayburn, one of her cousins, said he can't remember any time Emily was not smiling, laughing or trying to cheer someone up.
The daughter of Robert Clayburn and Michelle Palkovic Clayburn, Emily graduated in 2001 from Canajoharie High School. In 2003, she enlisted in the Air Force. She served twice in Iraq, and in South Korea, Germany and around the United States.
Arthur Cleveland covers Montgomery County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.