‘The Mollie Movement has just begun,’ relative says at Mollie Tibbetts’ service

After the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, those close to her hope that her spirit lives on through the Mollie Movement.

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Mollie Tibbetts

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

BROOKLYN, Iowa — Mollie Tibbetts’ 20 years of life were years well-lived, those close to her said Aug. 26 while gathered for her service.

Tibbetts’ service brought together hundreds inside the BGM High School gymnasium in the 20-year-old University of Iowa student’s hometown. She graduated from the school in 2017.

Tibbetts was found dead Aug. 21 in rural Poweshiek County after disappearing from Brooklyn on July 18. The finding closed a monthlong investigation into her disappearance, which involved local, state, and federal agents and garnered national attention.

The UI student would have been a sophomore this fall. In her first year at the UI, she volunteered with the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, participated in Dance Marathon, and worked at the Eckstein Medical Research Building Café.

Tibbetts was known to love children. She majored in psychology at the UI with hopes to become a psychologist working with children with mental-health issues.

J.R. Glenn, a teacher at BGM High, shared at the service that he knew Tibbetts as a high-school student and also as a baby-sitter for his children. She exhibited maturity and emotional intelligence while still being goofy, he said.

Even her teenage peers called her “Mom,” he said, noting that the nickname suited her well.

Tibbetts’ cousin Morgan Collum opened her remarks by reading a poem Tibbetts wrote at age 13.

Collum said Tibbetts “always sought to find the good in everyone,” helping people to see that their “flaws aren’t flaws at all.”

“They’re what make us unique, beautiful, and strong,” Collum said.

Jake Tibbetts, Mollie’s brother, said Mollie has been portrayed since her disappearance as the perfect all-American girl. Having grown up with her, he said, he knew otherwise.

“She was not perfect,” he said. “But she would be the first to tell you about her imperfections.”

There was only one Mollie, he said, but now she is in a place with resources to help everyone.

“She can dance with the kids who unfortunately died of cancer,” he said, referring to her involvement with Dance Marathon. “… She can dance with joy in her heart without a worry in the world.”

There were moments of joy at her service, too. Mollie’s father, Rob Tibbetts, encouraged those in attendance at the service to clap for a recently married couple, to smile at those around them, and to applaud the BGM Bears football team on its Aug. 24 victory.

Mollie’s brother Scott Tibbetts, the team’s quarterback, led the team to its first win of the season and scored three touchdowns in a game he almost didn’t play.

Rob thanked many people before ending his remarks: law-enforcement officials who worked to find Mollie, her boyfriend, Dalton Jack, community members who checked in on the family, and area Mexican restaurant workers who showed him hospitality over the weeks that he has stayed in Iowa.

Mollie’s story has touched so many people, he said, because she is a “composite of all of us.”

“Mollie turned a mirror on us because she wanted us to see what she loved about ourselves,” he said. “… We see ourselves in Mollie because we are part of Mollie.”

Those close to Mollie who spoke at the service shared their hopes to encourage others to Live Like Mollie.

Glenn said to him, the movement means “to try.”

“Try without fear of failure,” he said. “… When others played it safe, Mollie would try.”

Life will never be the same without Mollie, Collum said, but she expressed hope that Mollie’s spirit would live on.

“I truly think the Mollie Movement has just begun,” Collum said.

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