Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 18
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
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Looking for Grace in the Midst of Pain, PHS Students Mourn Emma Kate Brunskill

Ellen Gilbert

Thomas Carlyle’s suggestion that “Silence is more eloquent than words,” came to mind in the aftermath of 17-year-old Emma Kate Brunskill’s death last week.

Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry Matt Schultz said he could report that “a spirit of compassion” prevailed at the Nassau Presbyterian Youth Fellowship conversation about Ms. Brunskill’s life and death at its Sunday evening meeting. Beyond that, however, he said that both he and those who participated had promised to keep their comments confidential.

“The Princeton Regional community is in deep mourning after the tragic death of Emma Brunskill, a very talented and beloved member of our senior class,” said Superintendent Judy Wilson in an email. “Our hearts and prayers are with her family and friends in this time of great sorrow.”

Ms. Brunskill, who lived in Cranbury, was a senior at Princeton High School (PHS). She was planning to attend Rutgers University to study Companion Animal Science, a natural choice for an accomplished seeing-eye dog trainer. She was an avid member of the Middlesex County 4H Puppy Pals Club, where she served as president for the last two years. She was in the process of raising her fourth seeing eye guide dog, Nana; all three of the previous dogs she trained, Joan, Kismet, and Bella, have been placed with appreciative blind people.

Ms. Brunskill’s devotion to the Puppy Pals Club and its mission was reflected in the request that memorial contributions be sent to the Seeing Eye, (P.O. Box 375 Morristown, N.J. 07963-0375), or to the Middlesex County 4H Youth Development Office (42 Riva Avenue, Davidson Mill Pond Road, North Brunswick, N.J. 08902).

In addition to her 4H commitments, Ms. Brunskill was an active lacrosse player at PHS (see related article on page 41). She sang in the Princeton High School Choir, participated in Peer Group and Freshman Varsity Cheerleading, and played the flute. She was an active parishioner at Nativity of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church in Monroe, and was a lector and assistant catechist at its summer bible school. A Funeral Liturgy was held there for her on Monday morning.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Public Information and Community Relations Lew Goldstein visited the church on Sunday evening. He described it as a “very tough” experience, adding that “she was well liked by everyone, and her loss greatly diminishes the school.”

“Within Princeton High School, all efforts are on supporting and guiding our children and our staff through this time of grief and sadness,” noted Ms. Wilson.

And, as Mr. Schultz’s Facebook announcement of the Fellowship meeting observed, people will continue to look for “the presence of grace in the midst of such pain.”

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