Today the country remembers our veterans, and I will be remembering recent losses that the community of Claremont has suffered in the past month. In different ways, the deaths of these three people have left holes in the fabric of our town which will take a long time to mend.
Several weeks ago Kathy Etter suffered a massive heart attack leaving her husband and daughter without her support and gregarious personality. Known in the community as the friendly face at the box office of Bridges Auditorium, she connected with so many in Claremont. Her memorial service was standing room only at CUCC.
When I started my career as a music educator, one of my very first mentors, Georgia Warden, started me on my way with the children’s choir at CUCC. She introduced me to the world of Orff-Schulwerk and together we figured out how to produce musicals with young kids, a stage, a piano, some fabric, and many laughs. Other people knew her as the music teacher/reading specialist at Sycamore Elementary School, and many knew of her talents as a soprano in the church choir. When her obituary comes out in the Claremont Courier, I will find out how old she was when she passed away last week, and I’m sure I will learn many interesting things about her that I never knew.
The most heart-wrenching tragedy that has been weighing on the hearts of our entire city is the murder of a high-school sophomore at the hands of her brother last week. I first heard the story with no names attached, and I immediately felt a deep sadness. When I found out the name of the victim, I was crushed. Aspen Geurts had studied violin privately with me, after spending three years in the Elementary Instrumental Music Program, so I had a good chance to get to know her over the course of about two years.
Aspen, a quiet girl, really enjoyed playing the violin, and actually spent time practicing because she really wanted to improve. She brought me music that she wanted to share with me, hoping she could learn it. Much of it was video game music that she had spent hours searching for on the internet, and while we couldn’t make it work on the violin, we did try. She was the kind of student all teachers love – the motivated one, the one who knew to take advantage of our time together.
She went off to high school, and I went off on sabbatical, and I hadn’t seen her for over a year, and I am so very, very sad that I will never see her again.