Eldersburg teen remembered for joy she gave to others Shen Poehlman's 'great spirit for life' celebrated at funeral

August 02, 1998|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Friends and family of Shen Dullea Poehlman remembered the slain Eldersburg teen-ager yesterday not for the circumstances of her death but for the way she lived -- her free spirit, her ability to make everyone around her smile, her never-ending kindness.

"Shen was the only person I knew who after failing a test, losing a game or even breaking a bone, would say, 'OK, well, I'll get over it,' " her friend Emily Steward told more than 500 mourners at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church. "She just had a great spirit for life."

As the tears flowed among the standing-room-only crowd, there was little mention of the 17-year-old's slaying or the man charged with committing it, John A. Miller IV.

Police say Miller has confessed to luring Shen to a Reisterstown apartment complex Tuesday under the guise of having her baby-sit for children he did not have there. Shen's body was found Wednesday morning in her 1988 Honda about a mile from Miller's apartment.

At the 55-minute service yesterday, the Rev. John M. Wunderlich III acknowledged "it is impossible to ignore the means and circumstances of Shen's death."

"Human beings are capable of such wonderful dreams and such terrible nightmares," Wunderlich said. While he said he has heard such words as "retribution, disbelief and nonsense" in Shen's death, "the word I have heard the most is 'Shen,' as friends share the stories, the laughs and joys of knowing her."

The Carroll County teen -- who graduated from Liberty High School this spring -- had won three straight county tennis championships. This month, she was supposed to take the next step toward fulfilling her lifelong fascination with dolphins by leaving for Florida State University to study marine biology.

The symbols of many of Shen's accomplishments were displayed in the back of the church yesterday -- the three medals she won in the county competitions, a tennis racket, a photo of Shen swimming between a pair of dolphins, and more than a dozen stuffed, carved and glass dolphins.

Mourners silently filed past the display as they entered the church and again as they left, with many pausing to touch a familiar item.

Yet as her friends and family remembered Shen inside the Eldersburg church, they spent little time recalling her material successes. For them, the important things about Shen were less what she did than who she was.

Her father, Charles Poehlman, recalled Shen's birth at home. "Her inner beauty glowed from the moment she hit the bed," he said.

"She is in your heart, and keep her there for as long as you live," Shen's mother, Janice Poehlman, told the hundreds of high school friends who attended the funeral. "She was my shining star and my precious angel."

Shen's friends promised she will never be forgotten. "Shen's spirit is in us, and we aren't going anywhere," Emily said.

After the service, an almost 2-mile-long procession followed the hearse to Lakeview Memorial Park, creating a huge traffic jam on Liberty Road. At the conclusion of a brief graveside service, Janice Poehlman laid her head on the casket and family members asked friends to give them a few minutes for a private farewell to Shen.

To celebrate Shen's style of dress, many of her friends wore bright, fluorescent clothing to the funeral -- including four who spoke.

Lauren Tupis remembered that she was supposed to be with Shen at a concert yesterday. Instead, she was standing in front of more than 500 people struggling to hold back the tears.

"From the moment we met, we were inseparable," Lauren said. "Together, we were like 'Thelma' and 'Louise.' Apart, we were lost."

Jessica Shardoff found some comfort in the final conversation she had with Shen when they went their separate ways Monday night.

"I said, 'Goodbye, sweetie, I love you.' And she said, 'I love you, too,' " Jessica said. "Although it was a tragic ending, at least it was a happy goodbye."

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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