Gathering en masse only a few feet from where Rhianna Kinglet Dickson Hobbs died, mourners cried, laughed and sang for the suddenly deceased Freeland girl.
She was 10 years old. Rhianna is survived by her father, Rick Hobbs, mother, Lynette Dickson, and twin brother, Ryder Hobbs.
It was a fitting ceremony for the young actress, equestrian and “party girl.”
“Rhianna would love to be a part of this,” said Annie Thoe, Rhianna’s aunt, at the vigil Wednesday.
Briefly joining the gathering, Rhianna’s mother and father addressed the crowd. Her mother agreed that the massive gathering would have thrilled Rhianna, who often asked her parents if her friends could come over.
“She was so goofy and crazy,” Dickson said before returning to her home. “It’s all too much. Thank you all.”
Rhianna’s father added: “There aren’t enough languages to say, ‘Thank you,’ enough for loving Rhianna and loving us.”
With lit candles in hand, a long procession of at least 100 people walked from East Harbor Road up Jubilee Lane. A slow, steady drum chorus echoed as mourners shuffled along the gravel road to the Hobbs’ home.
A small shrine with Rhianna’s pictures, flower bouquets, cards, candles and horse figurines stood near a fence. The center piece of the table was a Nevada license plate, “COWGIRL.”
Tacked to the fence were cards, a bright pink Western style rodeo shirt and black cowboy hat, and mementos of Rhianna, including a South Whidbey Record story from April 2009. Then 6 years old, Rhianna won money for a drawing she made of President Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. She used that money to buy 50 pounds of dog and cat food for Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation.
Rhianna died the afternoon of Monday, April 15 after riding her beloved horse Beauty, shooting at targets with her bow and arrow, Thoe told the crowd. Several times Thoe said the horse is not believed to have injured Rhianna.
“It wasn’t the horses, she loved the horses,” Thoe said.
Her twin brother, Ryder, was nearby and ran for help. Her aunts, Moon Dickson and Thoe, and dad found her on the ground.
“Rhianna took a couple of breaths and didn’t breathe again,” Thoe said. “She was, in a way, held by us and we are so blessed.”
The child’s many activities included that of an active actress with Whidbey Children’s Theater. Her fellow youth thespians performed “The Candy Man” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin.” On stage, Rhianna’s vibrant character came to life, said one friend and fellow actress.
“Rhianna was really good,” said Sera Elfrank, 9, who had a fight scene with Rhianna in “Sleeping Beauty” at Whidbey Children’s Theater. “She talked loud. She was outrageous.”
“On one day of the play, she wore a horse head.”
By Thursday afternoon, the reader board at Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley paid tribute to Rhianna who spent countless hours acting and performing there. Ahna Dunn-Wilder, a director at the theater, said Rhianna connected with new friends quickly.
“She was always incredibly social, giving and engaging,” Dunn-Wilder said. “An incredible shining light.”
She recalled the intensity of Rhianna on stage.
“My fondest memory is of Rhianna as the evil witch in ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ She shone,” Dunn-Wilder said. “She had this incredible power and passion on stage. She chilled all the little kids in the audience.”
The loss has left a big hole in the ranks of the theater.
“We from the children’s theater send all our love to Lynette, Rick and Ryder, and want them to know that she will live on in all of us,” Dunn-Wilder said.
At the vigil in front of the family’s home, the entire crowd joined in a short chorus of “Amazing Grace.”
A celebration of life for Rhianna is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, April 21 in the gymnasium at South Whidbey High School, 5675 S. Maxwelton Road, Langley.
In lieu of flowers, her family requests memorial contributions to Rhianna’s best-loved local organizations: Whidbey Children’s Theater, South Whidbey Centaurs 4-H Club and Whidbey Island Rescue for Equines (WIRE).
Staff reporter Michaela Marx Wheatley contributed to this report.