Obituaries for Keith and Sheila Kriesel read simply: The couple died at home – a place, family members recall, where all were welcomed with open arms.
“They loved when family came to the house,” Martha Powers told a crowd gathered Saturday in a tiny high school auditorium. She dabbed her eyes as she spoke of her younger sister, Sheila, directing loved ones to find room on the couch or floor or porch.
Others nodded. Yes, there was always a place for them in the Kriesels’ house.
“Anywhere there was room,” Powers said with a smile. “She always made room.”
Under the watchful eyes of law enforcement officers dressed in sheriff’s blue, family and friends on Saturday bid farewell to Keith and Sheila Kriesel, the Eureka couple fatally shot Oct. 2 at their rural Greenwood County home. As of Saturday, the man sought in connection with their homicides as well as the shooting of their 26-year-old daughter, Catherine Scheff, remained at large. Authorities have said that the suspect, 35-year-old Kevin Welsh, has ties to the family.
During an hourlong funeral at Eureka High School, homage was paid to the Kriesels’ love of family and their dedication to military life. Both were veterans of the U.S. Air Force and members of the VFW; Keith Kriesel joined the military in 1977, serving 16 years. His wife, a 14-year veteran, joined in 1982.
Family members remembered how the pair met and married in England in 1992 while they were enlisted. And how both had children – five total – from previous marriages.
Later when the couple moved to Eureka, Sheila, 52, worked for the Greenwood County Attorney’s Office, family recalled. Keith, 54, was a jailer for the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office and drove a school bus, whose passengers included a few of the couple’s 12 grandchildren.
One family member said the pair had “a phenomenal bond.” Others called the couple honorable, cheerful, compassionate and strong.
“This funeral isn’t a funeral. It’s a celebration,” another family member said. “They led a great life.”
Near the close of the service, daughter Christina Scheff lingered before the pair of white caskets, each draped with an American flag. Outside the school, 23 more flags lined the sidewalks in honor of her parents, courtesy of the Patriot Guard.
Her chest heaved slightly as she lowered her head and pressed her lips to each casket, bidding a quiet farewell to her mother and the man she knew as “dad.”
“Our parents were the most amazing people in the world,” Scheff said, her voice unwavering. “We’ll rise above this tragedy. This will not be the legacy they will be remembered by.”
A memorial has been established in remembrance of Keith and Sheila Kriesel. Contributions may be sent to the Sheila and Keith Kalen Kriesel Family Benefit Fund in care of the Koup Family Funeral Home, P.O. Box 595, Eureka, KS 67045.