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Albuquerque remembers a leading light in the community

A “celebration of a beautiful life” for Jennifer Riordan all but filled Popejoy Hall Sunday evening, serving as an inspiring call to action to love and care for each other.

The event came five days after Riordan’s shocking death aboard a Southwest Airlines flight. The plane’s engine exploded midflight, shattering her window. She was partially drawn out and fatally injured. The dramatic accident attracted a frenzy of national and international media attention.

But on Sunday, for Albuquerque and the nearly 2,000 friends, family and community members at the memorial, it was the “hands on and heart open” way she lived that was the focus.

Riordan, 43, was remembered as a compassionate, genuine woman with “boundless energy” who gave “epic and heartfelt” hugs and was quick to ask, “How can I help?” By all accounts, she embodied her personal philosophy: kind, loving, caring and sharing.

A crowd of prominent politicians, community, nonprofit and business leaders, as well as neighbors, family and friends who knew her and her children nearly filled Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus.

Mourners gather in the lobby of Popejoy Hall on the campus of the University of New Mexico for the memorial service for Jennifer Riordan who lost her life on Tuesday April 17, on Southwest Airlines flight 1380. (Katy Barnitz/Albuquerque Journal)

The turnout, Riordan’s father said, showed the extent of the love that his daughter found in Albuquerque.

Riordan’s husband, the former chief operating officer for the City of Albuquerque, opened Sunday’s service with a reminder that the event was to be “the kind of party Jennifer would want.”

The couple’s two children, Josh and Averie, stayed with him on stage as he spoke.

“The outpouring of support for my family this past week just solidifies everything that Jennifer already knew about Albuquerque, New Mexico, the United States and all the world, that we are kind, loving, caring and sharing.”

Her friend and mentor, Diane Harrison Ogawa, head of community relations at Central New Mexico Community College, urged those in attendance to remember to “up our game” and “do as Jenn did.”

Baseball teammates of Josh Riordan wait outside Popejoy Hall on Sunday before attending the memorial for their friend’s mother, Jennifer Riordan, who was killed in an airplane accident Tuesday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

She talked of running into Riordan’s children in the future and looking back on the memorial service as a moment of change.

“We’ll reminisce about that time 10 years earlier when thousands of people pledged in their mom’s honor to step up. To double our commitment to ask how we might help. To love out loud. To think daily about how we might care for each other and our community,” she said. “That was the moment out of our collective heartbreak that our community looked to our strengths and our beauty and to each other and we began to change.”

Riordan was the vice president of community relations for Wells Fargo in New Mexico, where she worked on the company’s philanthropic endeavors. Previously, she worked as a media relations manager for UNM Hospital and as vice president of community and public relations for New Mexico Citigroup. A graduate of UNM and a member of the UNM Alumni Association Board, she was known for her extensive work with nonprofits and as a volunteer for many organizations.

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez presented Riordan’s family with a flag flown in her memory at the state Capitol.

Riordan’s family has set up a memorial trust in her name to support “causes that Jennifer held dearest.”

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