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7-year-old's funeral in Parkston draws hundreds

Landon Bueber1 / 4
A tearful Kristie Bueber rests her head on the shoulder of husband Jonathan Bueber during the funeral Monday at the Parkston National Guard Armory for their son Landon Bueber, 7, who died last Tuesday after a fight against aplastic anemia. (Jordan Steffen/Republic)2 / 4
One of the Parkston Fire Department's trucks has been named "Landon" and was displayed at the cemetery during Landon Bueber's burial service Monday in Parkston. (Jordan Steffen/Republic)3 / 4
Hundreds of mourners filled the Parkston National Guard Armory during Monday's funeral service for 7-year-old Landon Bueber. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)4 / 4

PARKSTON -- A little boy's brave fight ended in a big outpouring of grief Monday.

Hundreds of residents of Parkston and the surrounding area said farewell to Landon Bueber at the Parkston National Guard Armory, which doubles as the Parkston school gym.

The gutsy 7-year-old, of Parkston, succumbed last Tuesday to the effects of aplastic anemia after enduring a liver transplant and months of treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

Monday's defining image was that of a tearful mother, Kristie Bueber, leaning her head on the shoulder of husband Jonathan Bueber as they followed their son's small white coffin.

The Rev. Barry Nelson, pastor of the First American Lutheran Church of Tripp, spoke during the service.

"We have this burning feeling within us that these things should not happen," he said. "That a parent should not bury a child."

The gym, said church member Gary Jerke, was selected as a venue because the Tripp church was too small to accommodate the large turnout.

Fire trucks and Highway Patrol vehicles filled the parking lot -- a tribute of support and sympathy for the Bueber family and for father Jonathan Bueber, who is chief of the Parkston Fire Department. Units from Tripp, Delmont and the Ethan fire departments also escorted the casket to the cemetery as did several cars and troopers from the South Dakota Highway Patrol -- the latter to show support for Trooper Robert Schmidt, Landon's uncle, who served as a pallbearer.

Those attending the funeral filed past Bueber family memorabilia in the lobby that included Landon's toy fire truck, fire helmet and an electric guitar in the shape of a pig.

Nelson said Landon had the multiple interests of any healthy boy and there was no doubt in his mind that if Landon could, he would have followed his father's example.

"I'm convinced Landon certainly would have become a firefighter someday," he said, because Landon had the courage of a firefighter. One of the Parkston Fire Department's tanker trucks has been named "Landon," with the boy's name emblazoned in gold letters on its hood.

"He faced sickness and death with a faith that would put many of us to shame," Nelson said. "Landon was not afraid of entering into the presence of God because he grew up in the presence of God."

Nelson said he couldn't help wondering what Landon would have thought if he knew that "every time the words were heard that 'Landon's on the scene,' " -- referring to the fire truck named for Landon -- "that it would be a message of hope."

A videotaped musical tribute, "A Light at the River," by Parkston elementary students, was played at the service, and grandfather Maurice Bueber sang an emotional a capella request asking Jesus to "Give Him One More Hug for Me."

Landon's classmates gave a final goodbye later at the cemetery by releasing multi-colored balloons in his memory.

The card attached to each balloon contained a Bible verse and an explanation the balloon had been released in Landon Bueber's honor. Nelson asked those who found a card to return it to the church, where the names of respondents will be posted to a website in Landon's memory.