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NEW YORK — Some 2,000 mourners poured into Saint Thomas Church here Thursday to pay their respects to Lily Badger, nine, and twins Sarah and Grace Badger, seven, who were killed Christmas morning in a fire in their Stamford, Conn., home.
The three girls were the daughters of Madonna Badger, an ad executive in the fashion industry, and her estranged husband, Matthew Badger. Madonna Badger’s parents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, also perished in the fire.
With hordes of camera crews stationed outside, family members, friends, schoolchildren and Stamford’s fire rescue team filled the Gothic-style church. Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Barry and Sheryl Schwartz, Michelle Kessler-Sanders and Linda Gaunt were among those who attended the service. Mourners were given programs with a photograph of the three girls laughing on the cover.
Badger, 47, a partner in Badger & Winters Group, a New York ad agency, bravely took the podium and shared poignant memories of her three young daughters.
“Lily, Grace and Sarah aren’t here today and won’t be here tomorrow. I am trying to come to terms with this. I want to let you know who my girls were,” said Badger, choking back tears. “They’re right here and this is where they live. They live in the hearts of all of you who knew them, and those that didn’t. I want to fight for them so they’ll never be forgotten. They were my little girl tribe.”
Badger described Christmases, Easters and Thanksgivings they spent together “dancing, singing and loving each other.”
“My Lily was my angel of my life. She was my first baby, and I would put her in my Baby Björn and walk around New York City for hours….Lily sang before she spoke,” said Badger. She said Lily loved animals and had names for all her stuffed animals. “Lily loved her sisters. They were her best friends, and she never shamed them, and she only gave them love.” She was also a natural-born dancer.
Sarah was spirited and a great joy, she said. “She always wanted to make you feel good and at ease.” Badger described one time when her parents were visiting the Village Nursing Home and her mother made sugar cookies. The place was scary to young children, “and Sarah grabbed the cookies and handed them out to the old people.”
Badger described Grace as “fearless.” She would be the one to pick up “the creepiest bug.” She’d be the first one on the trapeze, and would want to go on again and again, she said. She said Grace loved math and loved to invent things. “There was nothing Grace Badger couldn’t make with a Band-Aid. She taped, balled and wrapped them. Nobody loved Band-Aids more than Grace Badger,” she said.
Madonna Badger, who has created ad campaigns for such clients as Calvin Klein, Shiseido, A|X Armani Exchange, Vera Wang and Chanel, said she is grateful for the outpouring of support, which is helping to carry them through, and there was a message she wanted to impart.
“Nothing will bring my parents back or my children. There’s no power greater on this earth than love. That is what will keep Lily, Sarah and Grace with us forever. All I can hang onto is that love is everything….I was a daughter and a mother and I intend to be both so I can make my daughters proud. They left the world at such a tender age. All they left behind is love. It’s my great responsibility to spread that love. But love without service is nothing. Help each other every day. For Lily, Sarah and Grace, this is what will keep us always together.”
Three songs were performed during the service remembering their lives: “Amazing Grace,” sung by Jenni Muldaur, “This Little Light of Mine,” sung by Teddy Thompson, and “Over the Rainbow,” sung by Rufus Wainwright.
Donations can be made to The Other 364 Foundation, a foundation that has been established in honor of Lily, Sarah and Grace, whose mission is to champion compassion every day. Checks can be sent to the Badger & Winters Group, 135 Fifth Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, N.Y., 10010.