(KDVR) AURORA, Colo. — Stories of heroism, zest for life and a birthday celebration that turned tragic emerged as family and friends shared information on loved ones killed in Friday’s mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater.
Almost all of the 12 victims were young, with so much life ahead of them. Gordon Cowden was the oldest, at age 51 and Veronica Moser-Sullivan the youngest, at age 6. There were two military members shot dead also; one sailor, one airman.
All victim’s stories are below.
AJ Boik, 18
Jonathan T. Blunk, 26
Jesse E. Childress, 29
Gordon W. Cowden, 51
Jessica Ghawi, 24
John Larimer, 27
Matt McQuinn, 27
Micayla Medek, 23
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6
Alex M. Sullivan, 27
Alexander Teves, 24
Rebecca Wingo, 32
Jonathan T. Blunk, 26
Jonathan Blunk was supposed to fly Saturday to Reno, Nevada, to see his wife, 4-year-old daughter and son, 2.
“We were going to have a family day,” said wife Chantel Blunk.
Instead, she put up the dress her daughter had picked out to wear to the airport. “I tried to tell her we wouldn’t see Daddy anymore. But that he would still love us and look over us.”
Jonathan Blunk served five years in the U.S. Navy, including service aboard a vessel in San Diego. Her husband said if he died, he wanted it to happen in battle, Chantel Blunk told CNN.
The Reno couple married in 2007 and separated in 2010, she said. The pair remained on good terms after Jonathan moved to Aurora. He held various positions and was trying to get back into the service, she said.
Chantel Blunk said she wants her husband to have a military funeral. She said she will remember Jonathan’s humor, spontaneity and attention to family.
Hailey, 4, is comforted by calling her father’s cell phone and hearing him on voice mail.
“We love him and he is going to be remembered as a hero,” Chantel Blunk said.
A Facebook page was created in memory of Boik, a Gateway High School student who was at the theater with his girlfriend and a friend.
“AJ was an awesome kid and a truly Inspirational teammate,” one individual wrote on the page. “You cant find someone with a brighter smile and more positive outlook on life. There to help you up when your down and One to carry on life with such an intelligence.” (sic)
Boik was an independent distributor for Organo Gold, a coffee company, and lived in Aurora, according to what appears to be his personal Facebook page.
James Crofter, father of Jordan Crofter, Boik’s friend who survived the shooting, said Jordan and Boik played lacrosse together. Boik’s girlfriend also was in the theater. She and Jordan found each other outside the theater, but Boik did not make it out.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress, 29
Childress, an Air Force reservist, was a cybersystems operator on active duty with the 310th Force Support Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado. He was from Thornton, Colorado.
Gordon W. Cowden, 51
Gordon Cowden loved life and his family, and he had gone to the midnight movie premiere with his two teenage children.
At 51, he was the oldest of the victims killed in the shooting. He lived in Aurora, but was described as a “true Texas gentleman” in a family statement. He loved the outdoors and owned his own business.
“A quick witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle,” his family said.
His teenage children escaped the shooting unharmed.
His family declined to be interviewed in their request for privacy but expressed appreciation for words of concern offered in the wake of the shooting.
“Our hearts go out to everyone that has been harmed by this senseless tragedy,” they said.
Jessica Ghawi, 24
Aspiring sports reporter Ghawi narrowly avoided another shooting incident in Toronto just last month — an incident that prompted her to reflect on life on her blog.
The Toronto shooting at the Eaton Centre left one person dead and seven injured.
“I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change,” she wrote at the time. “I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”
Ghawi, who also went by the name Jessica Redfield, grew up in Texas and interned at Ticket 760, a sports radio station in San Antonio, before moving to Denver to try to break into the television market there. She was a sports intern at FOX31 Denver.
“I’ll never have her to hug again, or get a text message again or get a funny Facebook picture, that’s the hard part right now. Just knowing those are thing I’m never going to get to experience again,” said Jessica’s mother, Sandy Phillips. “I was blessed. Only for 25-years, but I was blessed.”
A memorial service is scheduled for July 28 in San Antonio.
Like his father and grandfather, Larimer chose to join the Navy. He was serving at his first post, said his father, Scott Larimer.
A Navy notification team officially informed the family in Crystal Lake, Illinois, around midnight Saturday, a statement from the family said.
“I am incredibly saddened by the loss of Petty Officer John Larimer — he was an outstanding shipmate,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, Larimer’s commanding officer. “A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him. My heart goes out to John’s family, friends and loved ones, as well as to all victims of this horrible tragedy.”
His unit, part of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet, was stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado. Larimer had been in the service about one year. He had not seen combat.
“We send our thoughts and prayers out to the families of the other victims and those still recovering in the hospital,” his family said. “We love you, John, and we will miss you always.”
Matt McQuinn, 27
McQuinn died trying to provide cover for his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, during the shooting at the movie theater, according to family attorney Robert. L. Scott.
Yowler and her brother Nick, who also was trying to protect her from the bullets, both survived.
McQuinn and Samantha Yowler grew up in the Miami Valley region of Ohio, according to CNN affiliate WKEF. The two had been dating for a couple of years.
McQuinn graduated from Vandalia-Butler High School in 2004. The couple met at a Springfield, Ohio, Target store and moved to Denver last November, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Medek, known as Cayla to her friends, was “very spiritual and close to God,” second-cousin Anita Busch told CNN. Her family is tight-knit, Busch said.
Medek’s Facebook page describes her as a “sandwich artist/closer” at Subway in Aurora, and a student of general studies at the Community College of Aurora with plans to graduate in 2015.
She lived in Westminster, Colorado, but was from Aurora, Busch said. “I’m a simple independent girl who’s just trying to get her life together while still having fun,” Medek wrote on her Facebook page.
Busch said the family did not learn of Medek’s death for 19 hours. “We had been desperately trying to find her,” she said.
Alex Sullivan went to the movie to celebrate his birthday, two days before the first anniversary of his marriage to his wife, Cassie.
“Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever,” he tweeted.
“The Sullivan family lost a cherished member of their family,” a representative for the family said in a prepared statement. “Alex was smart, funny, and above all loved dearly by his friends and family.”
His uncle, Jim Loewenguth, said Sullivan was an employee at the theater, but was off that night. Sullivan was “full of joy” and “never had a bad chip on his shoulder,” he said.
Just 6-years-old, Veronica died on the operating table. Veronica’s mother, Ashley, is in critical condition with a bullet in the throat and another one in the stomach.
FOX31 Denver spoke with their cousin, Katherine Young, who said Ashley’s father died just two months ago because of cancer.
“It just feels like, oh, my gosh, part of our family has been wiped out. It’s just crazy.”
A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Teves was a recent graduate of the University of Denver.
“He was a wonderful nephew,” said paternal aunt Barbara Slivinske of New Jersey. The victim’s parents traveled to Aurora after the incident.
Teves has two brothers, ages 16 and 17.
He graduated in June with an master’s degree in counseling psychology within the Morgridge College of Education.
“Our deepest condolences are with Alex’s family and friends, including the many current students and faculty who knew and worked with Alex,” the university said on its Facebook page.
Wingo’s father wrote an emotional Facebook post about the loss of his daughter, originally from Quinlan, Texas.
“I lost my daughter yesterday to a mad man, my grief right now is inconsolable, I hear she died instantly, without pain, however the pain is unbearable. Lord why, why, why????,” Steve Hernandez wrote.
“I sit here and resist this entry however I feel I must , in disgust, in dismay , in prayer, I love you my daughter Rebecca, we all will miss you.”
A photo on Wingo’s Facebook showed three young children.
CNN’s Nick Valencia, Barbara Starr, Carma Hassan, Holly Yan, David Ariosto, Phil Gast, Greg Morrison, Dave Alsup, Allison Rampley and Audrey Irvine contributed to this report.