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Dru Sjodin laid to rest
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Pallbearers carried Dru Sjodin's silver casket into her funeral service Saturday afternoon. About 1,500 people attended. (MPR Photo/Tom Robertson)
About 1,500 people gathered at a resort near Nisswa Saturday for the funeral of Dru Sjodin. The 22- year-old University of North Dakota college student was found dead near Crookston last weekend, five months after she was abducted from a Grand Forks, North Dakota parking lot. The funeral service was a chance for mourners to say goodbye to Dru, and to celebrate her life.

Nisswa, Minn. — About 500 mourners packed Grand View Lodge near Nisswa. Another 1,000 people filled two overflow tents nearby. It was one of the few places near Dru Sjodin's home town of Pequot Lakes big enough for her funeral.

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Image Rev. Mark Anderson

Last November, the world came crashing down on Dru Sjodin's family and friends. Her disappearance led to frantic searches of the ditches, bogs and rivers of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

The long months of searching came to an end last Saturday, when Sjodin's body was found in a ditch near Crookston, Minnesota. Rev. Mark Anderson told mourners the community moved from shock, to anger, to fear.

"Last Saturday we became a community of sorrow. Dru had been found," Anderson said. "Right along with Dru's family, we have experienced the roller coaster ride, the gamut of human emotions. It has been a roller coaster ride for five long months. And that ride has now brought us to today."

Dru Sjodin was recalled as a young woman with a generous heart and an infectious spirit.

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Image Dru Sjodin

"She loved her family, she loved her friends, she loved her life," said Kelsey Pederson, a friend of Sjodin's who spoke at the service. "We'll always miss you, Dru. But her love is like the wind. We can't see it, but we can feel it and we know it's there. None of us want to let you go, Dru. But we don't have to. What you've given us is something we can hold onto forever."

Several family members also spoke, including Carol Sutfin, Dru's aunt.

"The reason Dru has gotten so much publicity, and the reason that none of you would give up until she was found, and the reason that there isn't enough room in this lodge for everyone to sit today, is because Dru made each and every one of you feel special. And aren't we blessed to have had her in our lives for the time that we did?" said Sutfin.

Dozens of law enforcement officers were among the mourners, including some who had helped search for Dru. A number of state lawmakers and local officials also attended, as well as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven. Pawlenty said Dru Sjodin touched many lives.

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Image Gov. Pawlenty

"She was a beautiful person in so many ways. In addition to the sadness of the loss, we also want to celebrate her tremendous life and what she stood for," said Pawlenty.

Mourners received pine saplings wrapped in a pink ribbon, Dru's favorite color. Bob Heales, a Sjodin family friend, said Dru's disappearance and death was a tragedy. But her abduction brought the community together and raised awareness of safety for young women.

"Dru is going to carry so many people forward, and there will be so many good things done because of Dru, and at least now we know where Dru is," said Heales. "It's bittersweet, I guess, is the best word to describe how everyone feels. Everybody is so sad. But we have Dru."

Dru Sjodin was buried in Pinewood Cemetery in Crosslake. After the graveside service, Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker, released a white dove. Family members laid pink daisies on top of the casket.

Dru's alleged abductor, convicted sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., remains jailed in Grand Forks. Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to a charge of kidnapping.

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