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Julia Yllescas

A senior picture of Julia Yllescas includes an angel image of her dad, Capt. Robert Yllescas, who died Dec. 1, 2008, from injuries sustained in Afghanistan. The photos taken Saturday by Denton photographer Suzanne Beckmann have gone viral.

They took a drive from the photographer’s house near Denton on Saturday.

“Just a good old Nebraska country road,” Suzanne Beckmann said.

Beckmann has a photography business, Snapshots by Suz. She photographs babies and kids and families and weddings.

Last weekend, Beckmann took pictures of Julia Yllescas, an Aurora High School senior she’d known since the girl was in elementary school.

When she was done with those pictures — after she sat down at her computer and added a faded image of Julia’s dad — she sent them to the teenager and her mom before she posted them on the Facebook page for her business.

“I think there have been something like 30,000 shares,” Beckmann said Tuesday. “It’s just insane.”

Capt. Robert Yllescas died Dec. 1, 2008, when Julia was 9. He was serving in Afghanistan and was severely injured by an IED. He died in a military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

Beckmann’s husband, Tim, has served active duty in the Nebraska Army National Guard for 17 years. She met the Yllescas family when Julia’s younger sister started preschool with Beckmann’s son in Denton.

The two moms bonded.

“We had that military connection right away,” Beckmann said.

And when the Yllescas family moved to Aurora, they stayed in touch, coming back for annual photo sessions.

“A couple of years ago we talked about taking a photo of the girls and putting Rob in it,” Beckmann said.

That didn’t happen, but when it came time for Julia’s senior pictures, it felt right.

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They drove to a pretty spot a mile from Beckmann’s acreage and set up shots with old photos of Rob in mind and how the two images would work together.

In one photo, Julia stands on a tree-shaded road holding the folded flag that covered her father’s casket. Her dad is beside her, standing at attention dressed in fatigues and an Army beret.

The daughter wears her dad’s dog tags.

Beckmann has been flooded with feedback.

“I’ve gotten comments and messages from other military families wishing they had that keepsake,” she said. “It’s also just resonated with a lot of people who have lost someone.”

She calls the faded photo of Rob an “angel image.” It’s a Photoshop technique called layering that she’s practiced for years.

Saturday was the first time she’d used it to include a lost loved one.

It probably won’t be the last.

“It’s overwhelming how many requests I’ve gotten.”

The last few days have been intense, Beckmann said. The photo — and the story behind it — have been picked up by media outlets around the country.

She thinks about the milestones to come for Julia without her dad beside her. And how happy she is that those photos mean so much to both a high school senior — and her mom.

“She said they took her breath away.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK.

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Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick joined the Lincoln Journal Star in 1994 and has loved covering life in her hometown ever since. Will write for chocolate. Or coffee.

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