Elrey “Bud” and June Runion were remembered Saturday by hundreds who gathered in the couple’s church home of 28 years as people of strong faith, whose charity and generosity “was an expression of Christ’s love.”

Mourners began filing into Mt. Paran North Church of God in Marietta at 11:15 a.m., nearly two hours before the service was to start.

Ushers brought in sprays of roses, carnations, lilies and mums while friends of the Runions hugged and consoled each other.

Pink and red flowers adorned a shiny bicycle at the edge of the pulpit. It was reference to Bud’s Bicycle ministry, a charity he’d run for years restoring old bikes and giving them to children whose parents couldn’t afford to buy them new ones.

The couple’s death last week in Telfair County made national headlines, because of its cruelty and what law enforcement says was extreme premeditation.

Following a lead on Craigslist, Bud and June Runion made the trip to an area just outside McRae, looking for someone who claimed to have a vintage 1966 Ford Mustang that Bud Runion wanted to buy. Instead, Telfair County Sheriff’s officials say, Ronnie “Jay” Towns, 28, lured the couple to a remote part of the county near his home and shot Bud, 69, and June, 66, in the head.

Earlier this week Towns was charged with malice murder and armed robbery.

The Runions were reported missing by their daughters after they failed to show up to babysit their grandchildren the next day, Jan. 23.

The Runions’ GMC Envoy was found in a shallow pond on Monday morning and their bodies found nearby later that afternoon. Each had been shot in the head.

Just before the service began, video monitors across the front of the sanctuary flashed photos of the Runions through the years. In one, June held a grandchild. In another Bud mugged for the camera, a Christmas ribbon stuck to his forehead. Each image told the story of a couple and two generations of their family, one that appeared loving and happy.

In a video message to the congregation, Stephanie Bishop, Bud Runion’s oldest daughter and June’s stepdaughter, thanked parishioners for coming, telling them she wished she and two sisters could hug them all, but that talking to anyone but family now was “too hard.”

Among the mourners were members of an antique car club.

As the room filled, a choir rehearsed a song they would sing for the service.

“When He calls my name, I will rise. No more sorrow, no more pain. I will rise,” they sang.

During the service, Bud was remembered as someone who loved to sing hymns, and June as someone who could “actually sing.” She was a member of the church choir that sang every Sunday, with Bud sitting on a pew raising his voice along with her.

Pastor Mark Walker, who eulogized the couple, recalled how Bud had once told him that his preference in hymns ran toward the traditional, because those are the ones he sung when he served in Vietnam.

“They gave him the strength to survive,” Walker said.

One of their favorites was “Nothing But the Blood” of Jesus, which the congregation sang at the start of the service. In the first pews sat the Runions’ daughters, Stephanie, Virginia and Brittany, who were flanked by their husbands.

Walker alluded to the couple’s fate a in his remarks, saying that they were good people who lived “in a fallen world where death and evil are real.” But he admonished the mourners to take heart in what he believed would prove true, that “evil has not won the day. Justice will prevail.”

Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that his community was angry, embarrassed and ashamed that one of their own sons is accused of killing the Runions. Even so, Walker offered a prayer of healing in his eulogy for not only the surviving Runion family, but also the people of Telfair County.

“Time and the Lord will allow us to heal and they will also allow us to forgive,” Walker said. “Bud and June walk hand in hand with their Lord and maker right now.”