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Charlie and Braden Powell: Family, Teachers Remember Powell Boys At Tacoma Funeral

By RACHEL LA CORTE   02/12/12 12:43 AM ET  AP

TACOMA, Wash. -- More than a thousand people mourned the deaths of Charlie and Braden Powell at a public funeral Saturday, nearly a week after the young boys' father killed them and himself in a gas-fueled blaze.

"We want to celebrate their innocence today," said the Rev. Dean Curry, lead pastor of Life Center Church in Tacoma. "We want to be grateful for the moments we had with these children."

The boys' grandfather Chuck Cox thanked police, social workers, teachers and everyone who cared for Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, as well as people who had prayed for the boys after they died.

It "helps us to know that there are good people in the world – good people who fight against evil," Cox said.

At the front of the church's sanctuary, the boys were in a single casket topped with a large flower arrangement that included daisies, roses and sunflowers.

"We know that they're with their mother," Cox said, remembering his daughter, Susan Powell, who has been missing for two years and is presumed dead.

The boys' father, Josh Powell, was in the middle of a custody battle with Cox when he torched his rental home in Graham last Sunday.

Josh Powell was a person of interest in his wife's disappearance in Utah two years ago, and prosecutors consider the fire an admission that he killed her.

Cox gained custody of the children more than five months ago after police arrested Josh Powell's father, Steve, on voyeurism and child pornography charges.

The kids were arriving for a supervised visit when Josh Powell blocked a social worker from entering the home. He then attacked the boys with a hatchet and torched the house, authorities said.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said Saturday that Josh Powell's body will be released to a cousin Monday.

About 1,200 people attended the boys' funeral at Life Center Church in Tacoma. Many of them wore purple and blue ribbons in memory of Susan, Charlie and Braden.

Two teachers shared their memories and read letters from other instructors who had interacted with the boys.

Charlie was remembered as a boy fascinated with science and insects, often trying to sneak worms or caterpillars into the classroom. He was about to get glasses and loved to write, dreaming up plans to market his books.

"At an early age, Charlie displayed a keen intellect and compassionate heart," said Tammy Ougheon, Charlie's kindergarten teacher in Utah. "He was an amazing young man."

His younger brother, Braden, preferred cars and trains, teachers remembered, and last Halloween got to dress up as a Transformer. Braden, teachers said, loved to be tickled.

"Braden walked through the doors every day with a big smile on his face," said Kristie King, an instructor at a YMCA where Braden was enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program.

King said Braden "had a heart of gold, always wanting to show affection."

"Braden liked to hold his teacher's hand and not let go," she said.

Three projection screens inside the church showed photos of the boys: pictures of them smiling with their mother, laughing with their grandparents and playing outside.

"We are grateful for the opportunity that we've each had to have felt the joy that these two small children have brought into our lives in their short lives," family member Kirk Graves said in the funeral's closing prayer.

People started lining up outside the church more than an hour before the service was set to begin.

Tony Deponte, 39, said he was in "total shock" when he heard of the boys' deaths.

"The first thing I did was stop and pray for these children," said Deponte, of Tacoma. "The whole community is feeling their loss."

Amanda Morse, of Seattle, was standing outside the church, holding her 5-month-old son, Ronan. She said she wanted the family to know that they weren't alone.

"It was a tragedy that shouldn't have happened," she said.

A private interment will take place Monday at Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup.

___

PHOTOS:
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  • Father Kills Sons And Self

    Pierce County sheriff's deputies and Graham firefighters work through the wreckage of a home in Graham, Wash. where the bodies of Josh Powell and his two sons were found on Feb. 5, 2012 in a double-homicide suicide. The boys had just been brought by a Child Protective Services worker to Powell's home for a supervised visit when police say the dad deliberately blew up the house. A judge had denied the previous week a request by Powell to regain custody of his sons, who had been living with the parents of his missing wife, Susan.

  • Pierce County sheriff's officials said it appears Josh Powell used an accelerant to increase the power of a gas fire that he intentionally set to kill himself and his two sons inside his Graham, Wash., home on Feb. 5, 2012. The saga of the Powell family began in 2009 when Josh Powell reported that his wife, Susan, had gone missing. That night he claimed he took his sons on an overnight camping trip in freezing temperatures.

  • Aerial View Of Josh Powell's Home

    The explosion at Josh Powell's home left smoldering remains in Graham, Wash. Police say Powell deliberately detonated the home moments after a Child Protective Services worker brought his sons Braden, 5, and Charles, 7, for a supervised visit.

  • Braden And Charlie Powell

    This undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox shows their grandsons Braden, left, and Charlie Powell. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

  • Chuck Cox, Braden Powell, Charlie Powell

    This undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox shows them with their grandsons, Charlie, left, and Braden, right. Charlie and Braden were killed along with their father, Josh Powell, on Sunday in what police said was an intentional fire set by Powell. The Coxes are the parents of Powell's wife, Susan, who has been missing since 2009. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

  • Braden And Charlie Powell

    This undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox shows Braden, left, and Charlie Powell. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

  • Police and other officials from Washington state and Utah view charred rubble, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, at of the home where Josh Powell and his two sons were killed in the fire Powell set Sunday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • In this pool photo provided by the Pierce County Sheriff's Dept., a melted gas can is marked with an evidence flag, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in the rubble of the home in Graham, Wash., where Josh Powell and his two sons were killed. (AP Photo/Pierce County Sheriff's Dept., Ed Troyer, Pool)

  • Susan Cox Powell

    This image from<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-and-Family-of-Susan-Cox-Powell/158207040909324" target="_hplink"> Friends and Family of Susan Cox Powell</a> Facebook page shows missing Utah mother Susan Cox Powell. Powell has been missing since December 6, 2009. Her husband Josh Powell was a person of interest in her disappearance before he killed himself and their two sons on Feb. 5, 2012.

  • Chuck And Judy Cox

    Chuck and Judy Cox, the parents of missing Utah mother Susan Cox, talk to reporters at their home in Puyallup, Wash., Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. They had custody of their grandchildren, Charlie and Braden Powell, who were killed by their father Josh Powell during a supervised visit to his house on Sunday. Their daughter Susan Cox Powell went missing in December 2009 from the West Valley City, Utah home where she lived with her husband and sons. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Candlelight Vigil

    Supporters held an impromptu candlelight vigil for Braden and Charlie Powell, who were killed by their father Josh when he deliberately torched his Graham, Wash. home on Feb. 5, 2012. The brothers had been living with their maternal grandparents in a simmering custody dispute stemming from their mother's disappearance in Utah in 2009.

  • Flowers and two stuffed animals are left near crime-scene tape, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, near the home where Josh Powell and his two sons were killed Sunday, in Graham, Wash., in what police said appeared to be a deliberately set fire. Powell's wife Susan went mysteriously missing from their West Valley City, Utah, home in December 2009. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Mourners posted signs and lit candles at Carson Elementary School in Puyallup, Wash. where Braden and Charles Powell attended school. The brothers were killed in an explosion caused by their father Josh Powell at his home on Feb. 5, 2012 -- days after a judge denied his request to regain custody of them.

  • A Pierce County fire investigator works his way through charred rubble, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, at the home where Josh Powell and his two sons were killed Sunday, in Graham, Wash., in what police said appeared to be a deliberately set fire. Powell's wife Susan went mysteriously missing from their West Valley City, Utah, home in December 2009. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • Josh And Braden Powell

    In this Aug. 19, 2011 photo, Josh Powell plays with his son Braden in a park near his home, in Puyallup, Wash. Powell had long been a person of interest in his wife. (Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Friday, August 19, 2011)

  • This photo from Facebook shows Susan Cox Powell in December of 2008.

  • A flier seeking information on the whereabouts of Susan Powell, who was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, in Utah, is shown, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009, at a press conference in Puyallup, Wash. Powell's family said Thursday they are saddened but not surprised that her husband Josh Powell has been named a person of interest in the investigation.

  • Josh Powell

    Josh Powell, the husband of Susan Powell, stands with supporters after a candle light vigil for his wife at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Puyallup, Wash., Sunday Dec. 20, 2009.

  • Judy Cox, the mother of Susan Powell, who was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, in Utah, becomes emotional during a press conference, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009, in Puyallup, Wash. Powell's family said Thursday they are saddened but not surprised that her husband Josh Powell has been named a person of interest in the investigation.

  • Charlie Powell

    This undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox shows Charlie Powell, who was killed along with his brother Braden by their father Josh Powell in a double-murder suicide. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

  • Braden Powell With HIs Grandmother Judy Cox

    In this undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox, Judy Cox, right, sits at a table with her grandson Braden. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

  • Braden Powell

    This undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox shows Braden Powell. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

  • Chuck Cox With Grandsons Charlie And Braden Powell

    In this undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox, Chuck Cox sits with his grandsons, Charlie, left, and Braden, right, at the Coxes home in Pullayup, Wash. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

  • Chuck Cox With Braden And Charlie Powell

    In this undated photo provided by Chuck and Judy Cox, Chuck Cox plays with his grandsons, Charlie, right, and Braden, left. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chuck and Judy Cox)

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Filed by Timothy Stenovec  |