Image: Balloons honoring teacher
Michael Beadle  /  AP
Balloons honoring a Utah teacher landed more than 900 miles away in a South Dakota cornfield near Onaka, S.D.
updated 12/11/2007 11:57:46 PM ET 2007-12-12T04:57:46

A colorful bunch of balloons inflated to honor a beloved teacher who died of leukemia broke free and traveled more than 900 miles to a South Dakota cornfield.

"The balloons were still full of air," said Michael Beadle, who recently discovered them while deer hunting near Onaka, S.D.

Stephanie Bernritter, 39, a teacher at West High School, died last month.

On Nov. 30, hundreds of students stood below clusters of balloons as they celebrated their English teacher. Their emotional messages about Bernritter were attached to the balloons.

Most balloons were tied to the football stadium but a few escaped, including a bunch held by Bernritter's husband, Kevin Van der Merwe.

Beadle did some searching on the Internet and learned about the teacher's death.

When he heard about the balloons landing in South Dakota, Van der Merwe recalled how his wife had wanted to fly.

"She was so ready to just be free," he said Monday.

West High Principal Margery Parker described the balloon discovery as closure.

"It kind of makes you feel that everything happened for a purpose," she said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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