VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — A Vermillion teenager who drowned while trying to rescue her younger brother from an icy Sioux Falls river overcame the challenges of an autism disorder and grew into a girl who thought of others before herself, friends and family said during her funeral.
Madison Wallace, 16, died in the Big Sioux River at Falls Park last Thursday trying to save her 6-year-old brother Garrett, who had fallen into the water but later emerged unhurt. Lyle Eagle Tail, 28, of Sioux Falls, also died trying to help.
The meeting hall of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Vermillion was decorated with 1,000 origami ducks for Madison's funeral Tuesday night, all folded by other high school students, according to the Argus Leader. A memorial room displayed photos and certificates from her academic and extracurricular life, surrounded by flowers from several high schools in the region.
A line of teenagers formed at another table, where friends wrote messages on slips of colored paper and placed them in a small box labeled "Treasured Memories of Madison."
People who knew Madison described her as a quiet child who had a disorder known as high-functioning autism.
"She wanted more than anything to connect with those around her, and she did that through her actions," said her grandmother, Margaret Knaphus.
Madison used money she saved from her own birthday to buy supplies for handmade cards, origami, sewing projects or storybooks to give her siblings and parents on their birthdays. She was well-mannered but not cuddly, Knaphus said.
"Instead of hugs, she showed her zest for life by what she did for others," Knaphus said. "She was a gifter."
Madison also was a determined child, according to Knaphus. At age 8, she was the only girl on her baseball team. She took lessons before and after school as a young child to improve her reading, and worked hard to hone her skills on the French horn, which helped her earn a scholarship to the South Dakota Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.
Madison also mastered origami and loved to go bike riding, in-line skating and rock climbing, according to the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan.
She was born in Orem, Utah, and will be buried in that state later.
Eagle Tail's funeral is scheduled for Saturday in Rapid City, where he spent part of his life. An all-night wake begins at 5 p.m. and ends with the 10 a.m. Saturday service at the Mother Butler Center. Burial will follow in a Rapid City cemetery, according to Edstrom & Rooks Funeral Services at Serenity Springs.