Family, friends and fans gathered in the hundreds on Saturday morning at the Webb-Freer Funeral Home in Blue Springs, Missouri, to bid farewell to Frankie Abernathy, the former "Real World: San Diego" housemate who lost her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis on June 9.
And much like Frankie herself, Saturday's ceremony was unique and reflective of the spunky, punk rock-adoring star's personality. According to the Kansas City Star, the song that welcomed mourners as they arrived at Abernathy's eulogy was Norman Greenbaum's 1970 hit "Spirit in the Sky," which includes the lyrics, "When I die and they lay me to rest / Gonna go to the place that's the best ..."
A ruling on the official cause of Abernathy's death has yet to be determined, but it is most likely related to cystic fibrosis (see " 'Real World: San Diego' Alum Frankie Abernathy Dead At 25"). Frankie was diagnosed with the disease — which causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract (see " 'Real World' Alum's Death Raises Question: Just What Is Cystic Fibrosis?") — at the age of 3. She is survived by her 15-year-old sister, Mamie; her mother, Abbie Hunter; her stepfather, Perry; and her dad, Joe Abernathy, who now resides in Texas.
Mamie, who stepped up to the lectern sporting magenta and purple bangs, joked that she had "a confession to make: this isn't my natural hair color," the Star reported. While the line got a few laughs, Mamie's tone took a serious turn, and she sobbed as she spoke about the sister she'd idolized.
"Every day that I knew Frankie, I grew a little more colorful inside," she explained. "Her vibrance, it dyed me forever."
A jar of pickles and a pair of platform shoes were among the mementos on display during the service, along with photos of Frankie in all her tattooed glory. Frankie's father reflected on some of his daughter's favorite things: "Sleeping late. Cheese. Italian food. Clothes. Her cat." She was also a music lover, and father and daughter shared a passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
She was also an avid Hello Kitty fan, and the iconic cartoon character graced the service's program. Joe Abernathy lauded his late daughter for the courageous way in which she never let her disease get her down. "She never let it get in the way or define her," he said.
As amusing Frankie stories were recalled and shared for those in attendance, her mother, Abbie, decided she wanted to help everyone feel better about her daughter's passing, according to the Star. She explained how, during the final year of Frankie's short life, the "Real World: San Diego" housemate had gotten "sicker, a lot sicker." She couldn't walk far without running out of breath, she said.
She explained how, back in November of 2005, a doctor told Frankie she'd be lucky to see her 24th birthday. She, of course, proved him wrong, winning a bet she'd made with him: dinner at Applebee's. Abbie Hunter also said that being at home, instead of in a hospital bed, was "the best possible situation" for Frankie. Dave Duly, Frankie's ex-boyfriend and one of the reasons why she'd left the reality series prematurely, was seen sitting on the floor, his head down, at the rear of the chapel.
Abbie Hunter told the crowd that, while some people faced with the news that they've been diagnosed as having a fatal illness choose to live cautiously, Frankie didn't. "She knew that she had to fill up her life, and she did," her mother said.
It was unclear at press time whether any of Frankie's former housemates attended the service (see "'Real World: San Diego' Cast Says Frankie Abernathy 'Lived Every Day To The Fullest' ").
A scholarship fund has been established in Frankie's name at Blue Springs High School — her alma mater. Fans can send donations to the Frankie Abernathy Scholarship Fund, c/o Jackie Langston, 1205 NW Roanoke Drive, Blue Springs, MO, 64015.