For five months, June Abe worked on an outfit to wear in the 1994 ladies Western dress contest at Conejo Valley Days. She had won the contest in 1993 and hoped to win it again.
But in February, before Abe could finish the glitzy outfit, her husband, Carl, fatally shot his 35-year-old wife and then turned the gun on himself, leaving their three children orphans.
This week, June Abe’s sister, Mary Jane Moorefield, wore the white and fuchsia outfit in the same contest, which also featured a raffle that raised $425 for the couple’s children.
Today, Moorefield will participate in the Conejo Valley Days Parade as one of the contest winners.
“I just wish my sister had been there,” said Moorefield, who flew in from her Danville, Va., home for the event. “People have been extremely generous. They really cared about June.”
Friends of June Abe (pronounced AH-bee) wanted to pay tribute to her and help her children, said Mary Currie, who organized the contest and raffle.
“It is a real tragedy that the kids were left alone,” Currie said. “Just thinking about my children being in a similar situation hurts.”
Since the Feb. 10 shooting at the Abe home in Moorpark, Moorefield has taken the three Abe children--ages 6, 3 and 1--into her custody and cared for them at her home in Virginia.
Moorefield, 45 and single, said she is adopting her niece and two nephews.
“They are like my grandchildren,” Moorefield said. “I helped to raise June and now I am raising her children.”
This was the first time that Moorefield and the oldest child, Paige Abe, 6, have returned to California.
“Oh, we are really excited about the contest,” said Moorefield, who wore the outfit, decorated with glittery sequins and stones. Moorefield also wore the silver-braided belt that June Abe won in last year’s contest.
During the contest, in memory of her mother, Paige Abe paraded in a white Western outfit and was awarded a 2-foot-tall wooden trophy donated by one of the contest’s sponsors and a plate buckle.
June Abe had been an avid country-Western dancer who worked out of her house making fancy country-Western hats and shirts, which she sold at country dance clubs.
Although Carl Abe left his children financially provided for, Moorefield said it was touching to see June Abe’s friends trying to help.
“I can’t believe how generous people have been,” said Moorefield, who owns a company that makes business forms.
After her sister’s death, Moorefield said she received several calls from people in the community offering to run errands for her and even to adopt the three children.
Moorefield said she would not consider letting someone else rear her sister’s children.
“I feel so fortunate that I got them,” Moorefield said, her eyes welling with tears. “I am thrilled.”
Moorefield, who has no children of her own, said the 1-year-old boy now calls her “Mommy.”
“Initially, I was concerned that Carl’s family would want to adopt the children,” Moorefield said.
She said Carl Abe left a cassette tape asking his brother, who lives in La Mirada, to adopt the children. But the brother, who has four children of his own, agreed to let Moorefield raise them.
Moorefield said it has been difficult for the children to adjust, particularly Paige. On the morning of the slaying, she said, Paige found her father dead on the floor of the family’s master bedroom. Her mother, who had filed for divorce a few days before, lay dead in the bathtub.
“She is going through phases,” Moorefield said. “First, she blamed herself and now she thinks it was an accident.”
Paige and the 4-year-old boy, Chase, have been seeing counselors.
Paige is already attending school in Virginia and Chase will start next year. Moorefield has hired a full-time housekeeper to help her care for the children.
“I am going to give them a lot of love,” Moorefield said. “They will have the best.”