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Hundreds gather at funeral to remember Kathy Taft

High-profile state leaders attended funeral services on Saturday for state Board of Education member Kathy Taft, 62, who died of injuries sustained in an attack at a Raleigh home a week ago.

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GREENVILLE, N.C. — High-profile state leaders attended a funeral service Saturday for state Board of Education member Kathy Taft, 62, who died of injuries sustained in an attack at a Raleigh home a week ago.

Taft, who lived in Greenville, died Tuesday afternoon at WakeMed after being brought there last Saturday morning to be treated for severe head trauma. Police haven't determined if the assault was a random act of violence.

Gov. Beverly Perdue, state education superintendent June Atkinson and former board chairman Howard Lee attended the funeral at Greenville’s St. Paul's Episcopal Church. One of Taft's daughters and three of her grandsons belong to the church.

“As I drove here from Raleigh, I just kept thinking how in the world could someone do this to such a vibrant and wonderful person? I know that all of us will want this crime to be resolved soon,” Atkinson said.

“To have her leave in this fashion to me is a tragedy that will weigh heavily on my mind for a long time to come,” Lee said.

The funeral was a traditional Episcopal service of Holy Eucharist in "thanksgiving for the life of Kathy Arnold Taft," Rev. Bob Hudak said.

"We come with all of our emotions to grieve the reality of Kathy's death. To celebrate the mystery and gift of her life, a life that continues in the spirit of each of her children, and in the light that shines through her grandchildren's eyes,” Hudak said.

Taft's four children spoke to the more than 700 people in attendance at the funeral service.

"On our Earth, what happened was a senseless act upon a wonderful woman. In God’s kingdom, however, an angel was taken into heaven in a way that will be remembered, and therefore should motivate all of us to his service,” son Thomas Taft said.

"I don't understand why she was taken from us so abruptly and probably never will. I can only try to live my life in a manner that brings a smile to her face, honors her vision and life's work, and brings comfort to my family,” son Johathan Taft said.

Taft served on the state school board for 15 years, the longest tenure of any current member. She also ran for state Senate in 2008.

Several sources told WRAL News that Taft's sister called 911 last Saturday morning from a home at 2710 Cartier Drive, indicating that she thought Taft was experiencing complications from a minor surgical procedure she underwent a day earlier.

Police were called after a surgeon had examined Taft and realized she had been assaulted, sources said. Surgical bandages on her face likely concealed the wounds, they said.

Chief Harry Dolan said the assault occurred "some hours before" investigators were called, but the time of the crime hadn't been narrowed down from late Friday to early Saturday.

Taft was staying at the home of John Geil while recovering from the procedure, according to friends. Geil was in Florida when the attack occurred and has since returned. The pair had dated in the past and were still friends, according to relatives.

Taft's family has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Anyone with information that might help police is asked to call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-HELP.

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