TRAVERSE CITY — Paul Hurlbert loves to tell the story.
It’s about the moment Kelly Ann Boyce entered his life, when he first heard her voice in Union Street Station. When she asked, “Hey, want to dance on that pool table?” There was no music, but their friends clapped out a beat and they danced together for the next five years.
“I was a fun-loving idiot who got lucky,” Hurlbert told a crowd of hundreds in Traverse City’s F&M Park. “She saw something in me and kept at it until her loving ways started making sense to me.”
Family, friends, acquaintances and absolute strangers gathered Thursday afternoon to say goodbye to Boyce, 29, who died July 5 just a block away from the park after a hit-and-run driver struck her as she pedaled her bicycle home from work. Police are still combing through hundreds of leads for the at-large killer. But a long line of bicyclists — hundreds of bicyclists, in a funeral procession of sorts — who rode down Front Street after the service showed Boyce’s life was about hope, not fear.
Hurlbert and Boyce married almost a year ago on July 15 and she was just about to legally change her name to Kelly Boyce-Hurlbert when tragedy befell her. Speakers at the service spoke about a friend and loved one full of life, who loved her husband, her family and friends, her two dogs, dancing, music and pandas.
She also loved to wear a tutu with Chuck Taylor sneakers. Her friend Maggie Smith told the crowd Boyce would be proud of a tutu-making party her friends held Wednesday night.
“It dawned on me that we’re not all friends collectively, we are all friends because of Kelly,” she said. “Being at her house last night made us all remember what a gem she was to have picked all of us to be her friends. Kelly saw something in us that made her happy to be around us individually. We all started seeing these sparkly attributes in each other, and honestly it was almost as if Kell were there herself.”
One tutu-wearing friend, Katie Stewart, said she learned many new stories about Boyce from the service.
“A lot of people love her,” he said. “It’s always been obvious she was very much in love with her husband and was just a bright spirit that has a positive effect on everyone she touched.”
Bill Donberg, a flight instructor at Northwestern Michigan College who helped teach Paul Hurlbert how to fly, led the service and told the crowd it would be filled with stories and music. Several stories revolved around North Peak Brewing Company where she frequented and later worked. Levi Britton’s band played an assortment of Boyce’s favorite songs and said the service was a celebration of a friend “possessed of life.” He said talk of the killer had no place at such an event.
“For Pauly, he’s not even focusing on that right now,” Britton said.
Many people in the crowd who never met Boyce were still touched by her story. Alexis Crossley, a longtime bike commuter, said she rode her bike back from work on the same street just minutes before Boyce was struck and killed. She said she saw nothing suspicious.
“It was strange I was in such close proximity to where it happened, but it could have been anywhere,” she said.
When the service ended, Hurlbert held his bicycle above his head to cheers and led the long procession of bicyclists down Front Street.
A pink flag with a heart and the words “Pauly and Kelly Forever” greeted the bicyclists as they rolled down Union Street toward Hannah Park. Nick and Jerilyn deBoer, co-owners of Cousin Jenny’s Gourmet Cornish Pasties, took down their traditional British and American flags and put up the pink flag in honor of Hurlbert, who they know from their visits to North Peak Brewing Company, where he works.
“We just wanted him to know we were thinking about him,” Jerilyn deBoer said. “ ... We enjoy talking to him. He’s a pilot, a photographer and he’s in a band. He’s an interesting guy and a romantic — he was telling us about a romantic flight he had planned for Kelly.”
The deBoers were shocked to learn Hurlbert’s wife was the bicyclist in the hit-and-run case.
“The community needs some closure with it,” said Jerilyn deBoer. “Whether you know them or not, it’s a community thing.”