Wednesday January 4, 2012

LENOX -- Nearly 300 mourners, most dressed in black, filed quietly and somberly into the St. Ann's Church parish hall Tuesday morning to pay their respects to Remy Kirshner, the 17-year-old Lenox Memorial Middle and High School junior who died in a fiery car crash early Friday morning in Lee.

It was one of the larger public gatherings for a memorial service in the town's recent history.

Grieving students, staff, friends and acquaintances left notes of remembrance for the family and sobbed quietly as they viewed a table of mementos, including Kirshner's black boots and a display of her writings and drawings.

One of Kirshner's writings went, "Life is too short. ...

Laugh when you can, apologize when you should and let go of what you can't change. And always remember that life goes on."

Jeel Shah, 17, a senior, recalled that Kirshner befriended her upon her arrival at the school to start eighth grade.

Kirshner was "always in a good mood, wanted to have fun," Shah said. "She was nice to everyone, never had problems with anybody, and she never said a bad word about anybody."

Ericedis Olaverris, a senior, said news of Kirshner's death "hit everybody pretty hard -- it was out of nowhere."

"Especially in a small town, we never would have expected something like this to happen. She was the last person we thought this could happen to," Olaverris said.

Olaverris called Kirshner "such a happy girl."

"Every day when she was going through something, she would just smile walking down the hall," Olaverris said. "You never would have guessed she was going through something."

"She was very well liked and very well known," said another student who asked that her name not be published. "Every time I saw her, she was really lovely and she always greeted everyone with a smile."

Lisa Slosek, who taught Kirshner in first grade at Morris Elementary School, recalled that she was "such a sweet little girl.

She was well liked, kind -- just a delightful little girl to work with. She had a lot of talent, and she's going to be missed."

Slosek's brother, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, was at the service too. He said his daughter, Anha, knew Kirshner and "she's taking it hard."

"It's such a small community, close knit -- especially during times like this where you don't have to know someone directly for it to have an impact on you," said Pignatelli.

"As a parent, these tragedies happen all the time. And I hope that we can get some lessons learned out of this," he said.

Superintendent Edward Costa said "we've been working through this since Friday morning and we've provided additional counselors to our school today as well.

We've communicated with families who may need support."

"This is traumatic for both families," Costa added, a reference to the car's driver, Philip K. Baruch Jr., 18, a senior at Lenox High who was hospitalized at Berkshire Medical Center for injuries suffered when the BMW smashed into a huge tree on Greylock Street in Lee. Kirshner was a passenger in the car.

"This will not be a one-day event by any means," Costa said. "We will work in the days ahead to bring comfort and support to our students and our families."

"This is perhaps a wake-up call for all of us," said Costa, his voice breaking as he relayed the thoughts of Kirshner's family. "All of us have our days numbered on this earth. We should make the most of each day, and out of darkness, look for the points of light."

As a fellow student sang Paul McCartney's "Blackbird" with guitar accompaniment ("Blackbird fly / Blackbird fly / Into the light of the dark black night"), the private memorial tribute began, followed by a service at the Roche Funeral Home, with Deborah Zecher, senior rabbi at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire in Great Barrington, presiding.

To reach Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247.

Remy's message

This message was among the writings of accident victim Remy Kirshner prominently displayed as mourners entered the St. Ann's Church parish hall:

"Life is too short, grudges are a waste of perfect happiness. Laugh when you can, apologize when you should and let go of what you can't change. Love deeply and forgive quickly. Take chances and give everything. Have no regrets, life is too short to be unhappy. You have to take the good with the bad. Smile when you're sad, love what you've got and always remember what you had. Always forgive but never forget; learn from your mistakes, but never regret. People change when things go wrong and always remember that life goes on."

-- Remy Kirshner