The Cedar Falls community is reeling after the sudden, violent deaths of a beloved librarian, her husband and their young daughter.
Sarah Schmidt, 42, along with her husband, Tyler Schmidt, 42, and their daughter Lula, 6, all of Cedar Falls, were victims of what appears to be a random act of gun violence while they were camping Friday morning at Maquoketa Caves State Park.
Cedar Falls Public Library, where Sarah worked, had a painted heart memorial up on a window Sunday with all three names.
“Gone too soon, but always in our hearts,” the memorial read.
Another memorial was started in the front yard of the Schmidt family home in Cedar Falls.
“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day,” a placard read.
Tributes to the family began pouring onto social media this weekend.
“They were a family, on vacation, and had everything ahead of them,” Jana Morehouse, Sarah’s sister, shared in a Facebook post Friday. “I cannot fathom that she will no longer be on the other side of the phone. I cannot fathom that I don’t get to see Lula grow up. Please, pray for my family.”
Only Arlo Schmidt, 9, survived. A GoFundMe account was set up for him by a family member, and had already raised more than $138,000 as of Sunday afternoon.
“We will use your generous donations to help Arlo now and to build some savings for his future education,” family member Beth Shapiro said.
A meal train page was also set up by longtime friend Kelly Voss, to help with food and travel expenses for family coming from out of state.
“My heart is broken tonight and my anxiety is rampant,” Voss shared on Facebook. “How can someone choose to take innocent lives as they peacefully enjoy family time in nature? Oh, Sarah loved nature! Senseless gun violence needs to stop now.”
Cedar Falls Mayor Rob Green noted the Schmidts lived nearby, and he knew Sarah particularly well as the two had recently been working on a library presentation.
“I’m devastated,” Green wrote in a post. “I knew Sarah well, and she and her family were regular walkers here in the Sartori Park neighborhood.”
Some posted having to tell their children the news about Lula, while others shared the family were regulars at Hearst Center for the Arts programming. Still others recalled Sarah’s love of theater, ceramics and nature.
“She was kind, brilliant and always had the best smile,” an old friend wrote.
Esly Dwyer, who owns Little Details Photography in Waterloo, shared the family’s photo session from a year ago on Facebook in tribute.
Dwyer said she met Sarah Schmidt through a “mom’s group” and called the family “some of the kindest and most loving people I have ever met.”
“My heart is broken,” she wrote. “Please hold your love ones closer, take every opportunity to show you love the people in your life, live life to the fullest and love your family with every fiber of your being.”
That was echoed by Morehouse.
“My nephew is strong and our focus in the next few days is on him,” Morehouse said in a follow-up post. “Please don’t take any time for granted. Go outside today. Breathe. Sarah would have wanted that.”
By Amie Rivers
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