PLATTE CITY, Mo., and WILLOW SPRINGS, Ill. (WLS) --Friends and family gathered Saturday in both Missouri and Illinois to remember the life of ABC7 Executive Producer Anne Swaney, 39, who was found killed Jan. 15 while she vacationed in Belize.
In Anne's hometown of Platte City, Mo., near Kansas City, people from miles away attended a funeral visitation. In suburban Willow Springs at Sarah's Stables, Anne's fellow horse lovers came together, along with her beloved horse, Sequoia, for a memorial ride in her honor.
The population of Platte City, Mo., may have doubled on Saturday as hundreds streamed into Rollins Funeral Home to remember Anne. Those in attendance included friends, colleagues and people who knew her growing up.
"She taught me everything I need to know at work. But outside of that, how she lived her life is really, just opened my eyes to living every day with purpose," said Mallory Connor, a web producer at ABC7 who worked with Anne.
WATCH: Hundreds attended funeral visitation for Anne Swaney in Platte City, Mo.
"Her kindness was unmatched. She'd do anything for anyone at the drop of a dime. Her laughter will always be remembered," said friend Stacy Tyler.
Anne's smile and warm, engaging personality was contagious - even from a young age.
"I was her first-grade teacher. She was the same in first grade as she was even as an adult," said Paula Roberts, who taught at Platte City Elementary.
While attending Platte City High School, Anne excelled in drama and journalism -- making her mark as editor of the yearbook.
She graduated and went on to the prestigious Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before joining ABC7 Chicago and meeting friend Ji Suk Yi, who is now a Windy City Live host.
"When she was with you she was completely present in a way most people are not capable of being," Yi said.
Friends of Anne's father tell us the family is taking her death very hard.
"Of course, everyone who comes to the door he breaks down. Who wouldn't? I did too," said family friend Roger Simcoe.
Anne is the second child the Swaney family has lost. Anne's brother died of natural causes two years ago.
WATCH: A memorial horse ride was held in honor of Anne Swaney at Sarah's Stables
Locally, snow covered the trails of Willow Springs where a memorial ride in Anne's honor was held.
Eighteen riders saddled up Saturday afternoon for the 45-minute ride. Anne was passionate about horses and spent much of her spare time at Sarah's Stables in Willow Springs.
"We're going to share our memories. We're going to listen. We're going to ride. We're going to walk. We're going to hug and we're going to cry," friend Carol Waynauskas told the group before the ride.
She added: "OK trail. Look out, here we come. Until we see you again, Anne. We love you and we miss you."
Riders were led by Anne's horse, Sequoia.
"She loved him. She loved that he was high spirited and lots of energy ... He knows something is going on. People are upset and people cry by him," said Sarah Halladay, owner of Sarah's Stables, of Sequoia.
Riders remembered the friendship bonds they formed with Anne while on the horse trails.
"We were investigating some new trails," friend Michelle Gonzalez recalled. "It was just me and Anne. Five hours later we went on maps on our iPhones and kind of figured it out. It was like eenie-meenie-miney-mo which way do we go? ... We just laughed. It was us being us with the horses and enjoying our friendship and our love for each other and the horses.
It's been more than a week since Anne was found murdered in Belize while vacationing at a horseback riding eco-resort. The search for her killer continues.
In lieu of flowers, Anne's family is asking contributions be sent to Northland Therapeutic Riding Center or Changing Leads Equine Rescue, both organizations in Missouri.
Send donations to:
Northland Therapeutic Riding Center
P.O. Box 1267
Kearney, MO 64060
Changing Leads Equine Rescue
P.O. Box 901343
Kansas City, MO 64190