NEPTUNE CITY — Friends, family and people and people who only read her name in the headlines came to celebrate Sarah Stern's life this weekend.

Multiple searches by State Police have not turned up Stern's body since her car was found parked on the Route 35 bridge between Neptune and Belmar in December.  Her father, Michael, has not held a funeral for his daughter, but told New Jersey 101.5 he wanted to give himself and others an opportunity to remember the 19-year-old.

Two of Sarah Stern’s classmates at Neptune City High School are accused in connection with her death. Authorities say Liam McAtasney, 19, strangled Sarah Stern during a robbery Dec. 2 the Stern family's Neptune City home. Preston Taylor, also 19, is accused of helping McAtasney throw her off the bridge.

People from different aspects of Stern's life came to the Neptune Community Center to remember a former student, fellow classmate and co-worker surrounded by hundreds of samples of her art work. They were decked out in purple, the 19-year-old's favorite color.

Michael Stern told New Jersey 101.5 he was overwhelmed by the number of people who came to the event and candlelight vigil, which he said helped give him a sense of closure.

Shirley Karaty of Tinton Falls said she sat next to Sarah Stern in an art class at Brookdale Community College.

"Instead of me as, an older person, being a mentor of her, she was a mentor for me," Karaty said.

"Whenever were were given a project she added something funny to it, something bizarre to it, but always something different," Karaty said. "It was incredible, She was so talented."

Looking at the sketches, photos and paintings around the room, Karaty said, "I see an incredible, remarkable life. She's touched so many lives at only 19. That's incredible. I feel so bad for her father."

Lauren Massa of Neptune City said worked with Sarah as a lifeguard. "She was always happy, always smiling." Admittedly Massa said she didn't know Sarah well but remembered she liked to catch Pokemon and would swim on her break and saw those interests reflected in her art work.

"Lots of people come up to the entrance (of the beach she guarded) looking for her or share memories," Massa said.

Sarah Stern's fifth grade teacher, Tracey Whitt, recalled "she was always a happy girl" with a beautiful smile and a love of learning. Whitt said teachers took it hard when they found out two of her former classmates were charged in connection with her death.

"She was loved by everyone in the community," Whitt said.

Michael Stern said he is working on find additional artwork of Sarah's to display at the Shrewsbury Art Guild.

"Someone would say they liked a spider so she'd draw them a picture of a spider," Stern said.

Submissions can be made via the Sarah Lee Stern Memorial page on Facebook

Adam Hochron contributed to this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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