PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - A recent college graduate from Port Orchard who was volunteering at a Haiti orphanage was killed when the Port-au-Prince earthquake struck, her family said Friday.
Molly Hightower, 22, was on the fifth floor of a seven-story orphanage building in Petionville when it collapsed, the organization that runs the orphanage told her father, Mike Hightower.
"This morning they lifted up my niece. She was not there. She was with our heavenly God, residing with the angels in Heaven and watching out over us," said her uncle, Father Craig Hightower.
Molly went to high school at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma and in 2009 graduated from the University of Portland, where she majored in sociology and French. She arrived in Haiti in June for a year of service working for Friends of Orphans. She helped at an orphanage and at a hospital and also worked with disabled children.
"It would have been easy for her to stay at home or go onto grad school or into the workforce, but the one thing she knew how to do, she knew how to love," said Craig.
She loved her work, but found it difficult when the orphans were taken away or died, Mike told the Kitsap Sun.
“She said she was tired of going to funerals. She did quite a bit of that,” he said.
Molly kept a blog about her experiences in Haiti called “525,600 Minutes” and wrote about the joys and challenges of her volunteer work.
“We went to bless the babies that died in the hospital the night before, which I’ve never done before. It was devastating to see them be unwrapped, cleaned, blessed and rewrapped to be buried,” she wrote in December.
In November, Molly wrote, “We had visitors Saturday so the kids had a big program with lots of dancing and music. The girls are such good dancers and are beautiful in their costumes!”
"She is a wonderful young lady. She died doing something that she was very committed to, which was showing love and compassion to abandoned orphans and orphans with disabilities," said Craig.
A private service was held Friday morning at her high school in Tacoma.
Friday afternoon, the Hightower family returned to their Port Orchard home, turned off the TVs, computers and cell phones and prayed for Molly and those who have loved ones still missing in Haiti.
Friday evening, a solemn procession of parishioners walked into St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue. They carried candles and photos of volunteers working in Haiti,
including one of Molly Hightower.
"If I had anything to say about sainthood, I think I would put her name on the register," said her grandfather John Hightower as he spoke from the podium.
Friday night, her grandfather spoke of her love for family and softball, and her dedication to her work with Haitian orphans.
"She was a people's person. She gave and didn't really worry about taking," says John Hightower.
"She spent her days playing with them helping them learn how to walk, helping them learn how to swim. She spent her evenings and weekends with them as well," says Friends of the Orphans Regional Director Katie Hulquist.
To donate in honor of Molly, go to www.friendsoftheorphans.org/molly.
To donate in honor of Erin and Ryan Kloos, go to www.friendsoftheorphans.org/kloos.
For general donations to Friends of the Orphans, go to www.friendsoftheorphans.org/HelpFAQ.