Conviction, commitment, courage: Jamie Hahn’s legacy honored at memorial service

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comApril 27, 2013 

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Someone placed an oversized picture of a smiling Jameson “Jamie” Kirk Hahn in the pulpit of the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church before the start of a memorial service for her late Saturday morning.

But an even more impressive portrait of Hahn emerged during the service in downtown Raleigh: an idealistic, passionate woman with a loud, unrestrained cackle of a laugh. Someone who would not let the cynicism of modern politics prevent her from believing that the power of government could make a difference in the world. A woman who loved exclamation points, good wine, gardening, animals, children and watching reruns of the “Golden Girls,” and who used her love for cooking to bring love to her community.

“Her philosophy in life was, ‘When in doubt, throw a party,” Nancy Petty, pastor at Pullen Memorial, said during the hour-long tribute to a woman considered to be, along with her husband one of the rising stars of the state Democratic Party.

Hahn, 29, a political fundraiser for several major Democratic Party candidates, died at WakeMed early Wednesday, after she was stabbed inside her North Raleigh home on Monday night. Her husband, Nation Hahn, 27, was also injured in the attack.

Police have obtained warrants charging Jonathan Wayne Broyhill, the 31-year-old best man at the couple’s 2009 wedding, with murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.

Broyhill has been hospitalized at WakeMed since the stabbings with self-inflicted wounds, police reported.

Investigators have not disclosed a motive for the fatal stabbing, but former congressman Brad Miller this week asked PNC Bank to freeze his campaign account after he discovered Broyhill had written questionable checks from the account. Miller on Friday said that questions about Broyhill’s handling of campaign finances had become an issue of discussion in recent months.

Several people made mention of Jamie Hahn’s sudden death, including her lifelong friend, Jennifer Boyce, who was the maid of honor at her wedding. She shared memories of kindergarten, Jamie Hahn’s participation with high school cheerleading, student government and dancing the “Mashed Potato” at the South Carolina State Fair.

“There was the missed curfew on prom night,” Boyce said before her voice dissolved into tears. “If that were the only thing to haunt me. If that were only the worst thing we had ever done.”

Despite the day’s sadness, Jamie Hahn’s legacy of reaching out to help others, particularly society’s most vulnerable citizens, was the focus of Saturday’s service.

“She died in a moment of darkness,” Petty said. “But the darkness cannot overcome her light.”

The pews at Pullen Memorial overflowed with the unsung, but also with some of the state’s and Triangle’s most notable political figures, including former U.S. senator and one-time Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, U.S. Congressman David Price, former U.S. Senate candidate Ken Lewis and Raleigh city council member Mary Ann Baldwin.

Jamie Hahn worked as deputy North Carolina finance director for Edwards and later state finance director for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. She founded the political consulting firm Sky Blue in 2008, and reported raising more than $4 million for causes around the state.

Lewis, while speaking in tribute to her on Saturday, recalled how during his campaign how she patiently taught him how to create online documents through Google. “She stopped by my office to teach me and painstakingly took me through the steps,” said Lewis. Lewis said he was among the group of people who rushed to WakeMed after she was stabbed last week. Someone there suggested that the best way to communicate within the group was by using Google documents.

“Imagine my horror,” he said. “I imagined Jamie looking down with a sly smile on her face, partly annoyed and partly amused.”

Nation Hahn wore a necktie that his wife tied for him, explaining it was because he never learned how.

He talked about how she turned their home into a community gathering place.

“We would decide to have a small party and then at the last minute she would invite everyone,” Nation Hahn said, his voice quavering. “She would invite the cashier at Whole Foods.”

Nation Hahn said his wife embodied a principle put forth by the poet Maya Angelou: A hero is a person interested in making the world a better place for all people.

“That was Jamie,” he said. “I always thought if we won the lottery that she would adopt 75 animals and 15 kids.”

Nation and Jamie Hahn were talking after the bombings this month at the Boston Marathon. He said they turned to the philosophy of Fred Rogers, host of the former children’s television series, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

“Mister Rogers said, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are willing to help you,’” Nation Hahn said. “Be one of the helpers. That’s what she would have wanted of us.”

McDonald: (919) 829-4533