Holly Ellsworth-Clark vigil in Hamilton offers chance for mourning and celebration

Roughly 60 people attended a vigil in Hamilton to pay their respects to Holly Clark, the 27-year-old from Calgary who went missing in January and was found dead in Hamilton Harbour at the start of September.

'All the people who helped on this long, long search, we really thank you from the bottom of our hearts'

Dave Clark, middle, listens to a performance as candlelight glows beneath a mural of his late daughter, Holly Ellsworth Clark, during her vigil in Hamilton's Woodlands Park. He also performed and thanked everyone for trying to find her for eight months. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Scarves of all colours draped a small makeshift stage in Woodlands Park on Saturday where musicians from Calgary and Hamilton strummed their guitars and sang in honour of Holly-Ellsworth Clark.

In the distance sat a graffiti mural, painted by locals, with her face and name on it.

"She'd be really excited for those things," Kate Clark, Holly's sister said on Saturday evening.

"There's a few things that would bother her but in a way that's kind of funny to us."

Kate Clark, Holly's sister, sat and watched musicians play their songs in honour of Holly on Saturday. She said the day was long and tiring, but she appreciated the outpouring of support and said her sister would've appreciated the concert. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Roughly 60 people showed up to pay their respects to the 27-year-old from Calgary who went missing in January and was found dead in Hamilton at the start of September.

Her disappearance compelled her family to come to Hamilton from Calgary the day after she disappeared and inspired hundreds to search for her in the city and in the Greater Toronto Area.

The vigil acted as a way to remember Holly, celebrate her life and thank the people of Hamilton who helped look for her during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also comes as the family awaits results of a second autopsy report to try and get more answers about Holly's death.

'She was so young'

Noah Matsakawo lives close to where Holly went missing, around Sanford Avenue North and Cannon Street.

He started seeing posters with her face and the word "missing" pop up around the city, prompting him to follow the case.

"It would be scary to know something bad was going on," Matsakawo said.

Noah Matsakawo said he started following the Holly Clark case closely after he learned she lived — and went missing — near his home. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

But he also came to pay his respects.

"It's such a nice tribute to her. She was so young."

Carrie Mason, another neighbour who lives nearby, stared at the mural as tears formed in her eyes. She said she felt love while admiring the art.

"She looked beautiful ... she's going to be missed tremendously and you can see it."

Janet Smith added to the graffiti mural, painting a heart with angel wings. Part of her message read, "May you be at peace and free of fear."

Janet Smith painted a heart with angel wings for Holly in Woodlands Park. She said Holly helped the community come together. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

"The community needs to get together more often whenever there are tragedies and missing people," Smith said.

'We're hoping the family might see a sign'

Don McAulay, the cultural resource coordinator at the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, ignited a sacred Indigenous fire in honour of Holly, while Carmen de Pinopar led a smoke ceremony and sang an ancient song that was a "call to the angels."

"We're hoping the family might see a sign of a connection with the departed one," McAulay said.

Kate and Dave Clark, Holly's sister and father, stand as smoke blows in their direction during Holly's vigil. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)
Dave Clark stands in the smoke during Holly's vigil as the man to his left livestreams the ceremony. Clark thanked everyone for attending and helping them search for Holly since January. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Holly's father, Dave Clark stood by, Kate standing behind him, as the smoke washed over them.

Others sat by the fire, sending thoughts, prayers and love to them.

Some locals wore masks and badges adorning Holly's face. Volunteers sold the face masks for $15 each. Five dollars of each sale went to 541 Eatery & Exchange is a non-profit café on Barton Street East.

'Thank you from the bottom of our hearts'

The crowd sat in white, painted circles on the grass as friends and family, some of whom came from other provinces, performed music for Holly. Each and every beat had emotion and meaning behind it.

The songs were followed by a prayer and moment of silence.

Hamilton residents visited Woodlands Park on Saturday to mourn the death of Holly Ellsworth-Clark and also celebrate her life. Visitors cried, held hands and embraced. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Candlelight in the audience revealed the sadness in people's faces. Some cried. Many embraced one another.

A few members in the crowd were off-duty police officers who helped the family look for Holly.

Holly was a musician. Her father taught her guitar, which led her to pursue music as a career.

Her family sat on the side, holding hands and clutching each other during the songs.

Dave Clark played two songs for his daughter Holly. He wrote one of them for her after images of her walking in Hamilton surfaced. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

And then, Clark played two songs — one of which he wrote for Holly.

"All the people who helped on this long, long search, we really thank you from the bottom of our hearts," he said after playing his set.