On Martin “Marty” Bodrog’s 50th birthday, family and friends celebrated by taking him to a hockey game.
They gave him a jersey bearing the name of Bobby Orr, the legendary Boston Bruin who was among the players Bodrog admired most.
Family and friends recalled such experiences Saturday at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield as they mournedBodrog and remembered a life devoted to God, family, country — and the Boston Bruins. Bodrog, 54, was killed Monday in the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
On the night of the birthday celebration, close friend Jeffrey Prowse remembered in a eulogy, Bodrog’s famously gap-toothed grin lit up Verizon Center. “In that moment, in that place, all was right with the world,” Prowse said.
That sense of peace shattered for Bodrog’s family and 11 others when a gunman opened fire last week. Since then, they have begun to gather across the region to grieve and pay tribute. There have been solemn ceremonies, candlelight vigils and simple get-togethers.
Along Herring Creek in St. Mary’s County on Saturday, more than 100 friends and relatives remembered Frank Kohler, 50, a government contractor and father of two who was also slain at the Navy Yard.
A funeral for Kohler, a Pennsylvania native, is scheduled for later this week in Pittsburgh. The private memorial at Kohler’s home in Tall Timber, Md., was less formal. Some who came sported the black-and-yellow jerseys of Kohler’s beloved Steelers. Photos of Kohler were set up on his patio, from which a succession of people spoke.
A pastor asked for a show of hands of people who would stand by the family as it copes, and hands went up.
The mood was somber, but not without lighter moments. Another speaker noted that Kohler’s wife, Michelle, and two teenage daughters had chosen “to do what Frank would have wanted,” which was to “have a great big party.” Grieving, the speaker said, was important, “but just not today.”
During Bodrog’s service, Melanie Bodrog, his wife of 25 years, sat in the front row with their daughters Isabel, 23, Sophie, 17, and Rita, 16. Isabel told the crowd in a strong voice how much she appreciated her father’s legacy.
Bodrog was a longtime U.S. Navy officer, having graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981. He spent long hours in a second career overseeing the Navy’s amphibious ship program at the Pentagon.
Despite long hours at work, his life was his girls. Isabel said that her bulky Navy officer father was always “Dad-O” to her. He sent his children e-mails and texts, simple messages of love.
Recently, he sent one message: “I’m so excited for what the Lord has in store for you.”
Immanuel’s pastor, Steve Holley, told those gathered to consider the service a celebration, not a funeral, because Bodrog had accepted Jesus.
His application to help lead a Sunday school group showed a man who was intense about getting the job done, but also warm, the pastor said. He wanted to work with one of Immanuel’s most “formidable groups,” Holley said: the 3-year-olds.
In his application, Bodrog promised to get those kids “shipshape, ready for any enemy foreign and domestic.”
He also wrote: “I can do all things through Christ.”
Family members said the tight-knit clan had come together for support in recent days. They said their and Bodrog’s faith gives them comfort.
U.S. Navy Capt. Jon “J.R.” Rodgers said in a letter read at the service that he is certain of where his friend his. “You sit in the hockey stands . . . wearing your Bruins jersey, cheering for God.”