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April 21, 2012

Family, friends observe Kenzie Houk’s birthday

NEW CASTLE — Kenzie Marie Houk would have been 30 years old on Friday.

She died on Feb. 20, 2009, at the age of 26, shot in the back of the head as she lay in her bed.

She was eight months pregnant. Her unborn son died with her.

Kenzie had lived in a New Beaver Borough farmhouse with her fiancé Chris Brown, his son, Jordan, and her daughters, Jenessa and Adalynn, when the shooting occurred.

A Lawrence County judge last week ruled Jordan, 14, as delinquent and responsible for Kenzie’s death. He was 11 years old at the time of the incident. He remains in juvenile custody.

Kenzie’s family and friends will gather at her grave tomorrow at Parkside Cemetery in Shenango Township for an annual birthday party and balloon launch in her memory.

 The gathering typically is celebrated with music, memories and messages.

“We began this when the girls were young,” said Kenzie’s mother, Debbie Houk. She and her husband, Jack, are raising their granddaughters.

“They wrote messages that they wanted to give to their mother and tied them to a balloon. The balloons were filled with helium and let go. We’d watch them float up and away.”

 Houk said the family has gathered in this celebration of her daughter’s life each year since 2009.

Usually it is on Kenzie’s birthday. This year, however, they agreed to move the celebration to Sunday.

Houk and her mother, Dorothy Burns, visited Kenzie’s grave yesterday morning to decorate it with birthday balloons.

She returned with Jenessa, 11, and Adalynn, 7, last night, and Adalynn placed a picture at the grave. There also are yellow roses, Kenzie’s favorite flowers.

Houk said the family visits the graves of Kenzie and her son frequently.

“We live only a few minutes away,” she said. “We often just drive through, past Kenzie’s grave, on the way to and from places.”

She said the girls often shout out “Hi, Mom!” and “Miss ya, Mom!” as they pass.

“They miss her. They always will,” Houk said. “Just as I do.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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