JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

In light of the death of Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, residents in Jacksonville reacted to the hurtful memories he's left behind.

"I know everybody has freedom of speech," said Laurie Haydel, a witness to one of the church's protests. "e certainly believed in what he was doing, was the right thing for him."

Phelps died Wednesday at 84. But he left behind a group known for its aggressive anti-homosexual message and protesting the military.

"I personally don't have any feelings about him living or dying," Haydel said. "He's going to have to answer to a higher power."

Several group members came to Jacksonville in 2008 in the wake of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach's murder. Camp Lejeune Marine Cesar Laurean was convicted of her murder in 2010.

Haydel, whose father is a Marine Corps veteran, remembers Phelps' followers picketing.

"Well, they didn't upset us," Haydel said. "They made us even stronger, and they looked like fools."

"What we wanted to do is make our presence known that we did not agree with them, we think they're wrong headed, I still think they're wrong headed, and with the passing of their pastor, I don't celebrate anyone's death like that," said Marine Corps veteran Wayne Morris.