More than 200 people gathered Saturday afternoon in central Fresno to celebrate the short, yet touching life of 8-year-old Finn Thompson, who was killed the day after Christmas when a private plane crashed while trying to land at Chandler Downtown Airport.
The memorial service at Tinkler Funeral Chapel and Crematory was filled with laughter, tears and prayers as hundreds remembered "Finny" as a curious, bright boy whose dream was to become an astronaut and land on Mars.
His mother Lisa, father Christopher and sister Baylee, 18, sat in the first row as they watched a video of images of Finn and listened to brother Dylan, 19, as he shared some of his fondest memories, including the time the family visited the space museum in Los Angeles.
"In his eight years of life he touched so many hearts," Dylan said. "He was going to be the first person on Mars, I believed him."
During the nearly hourlong memorial, Pastor Ron Young read a letter from Finn's mother recalling how every night she would tuck him into bed and give him a kiss. As she walked back to the door she would turn around and blow him a kiss. Finn would always blow a kiss in return.
Many among the crowd described Finn, a third-grade student at Bullard Talent Elementary School, as a "smarty" who had a bright future ahead.
Kenya Coombs, a teacher at Easter Seals Child Development Center in Madera, taught Finn when he was in pre-kindergarten. "First he was my student, then he became my son," she said. "I watched him grow from a shy little boy into this brave little outgoing kid. He knows I love him."
Finn and his uncle, pilot Timothy Lowell Farmer, 72, of Tehachapi, were killed in the crash that happened about 6:30 p.m. Dec. 26 on the west side of West Avenue, south of Whites Bridge Avenue -- about 800 feet west of the runway. Farmer piloted the single-engine Cessna in looping, 180-degree turns over the airport before the plane clipped a tree and crashed outside a southwest Fresno home.
Family and friends said "Finny" was an exceptional kid who was intrigued about the world and always wanted to help others. During the service, his family laughed as they recalled when he was 7 and told his best friend Romeo Carrillo: "You need to eat your salad to keep your colon healthy."
Romeo, 8, stood up during the service to tell the crowd about Finn.
"He was my best friend," Romeo said. "Now he's in heaven."
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