20-Year Classes Celebrate the Lives of Two Classmates, Pan Am 103 Victims
Hugs, tears, laughter and memories were all in abundance Sunday of Reunion Weekend as family and friends gathered to celebrate the lives of Colleen Brunner '90 and Lynne Hartunian '89, who would have marked their 20th Reunion.
More than 100 family members and friends honored Brunner and Hartunian's lives with the remembrance ceremony June 7 near their memorial in Penfield.
The two young women were returning home from a semester in London when they perished in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 Dec. 21, 1988.
President Deborah F. Stanley called the women, "two wonderful examples of what we wish for in every student -- in every person."
There, beside the framed photo of the girls in Oxford, a plaque with a poem from the site of the disaster in Lockerbie, Scotland, and a sculpture by the late Professor Emeritus Dominic DiPasquale, the Rev. James Lang held up another framed object -- a pair of red socks.
Lang, who was chaplain of the Hall Newman Center when Brunner and Hartunian were students and who presided at the campus memorial in January 1989 as well as the 10th anniversary Mass in 1999, told the story of his first meeting with Brunner, when she came to Mass at the Newman Center for the first time. She was wearing a pair of red socks, and Lang teased her, calling her "Bishop," because the Catholic Church's leaders wear red robes. The name stuck, and Brunner wore the socks weekly to Mass and around campus.
When Pan Am 103 went down, killing all 258 aboard, some of the luggage survived. From Brunner's bags, her mother saved the red socks and sent them to Lang. To this day, they hang in his office, he said.
Lang found meaning in their lives and untimely deaths. "Drink life to the fullest," he told the crowd. "Colleen and Lynne would have it no other way."
Janette Hausler '89, who studied abroad with Brunner and Hartunian, said the girls' example should prompt all to live like they did, with "hope, an open heart, intellectual curiosity and a happy spirit."
She told of how she and Kristin Usaitis '89 traveled with Brunner and Hartunian throughout Europe after the London program ended. One day Hartunian found a dime in her luggage.
Odd dimes kept reappearing throughout the trip. When Hausler and Usaitis were at Hartunian's memorial service shortly after the tragedy, they looked down and found a dime. After that, dimes would turn up at random moments -- like at their graduation from Oswego, just where Hartunian would have been sitting. The dimes became a symbol for the girls that Hartunian was with them.
"This weekend, as we were cleaning the car to go to Oswego, we found a dime," she said. "I'm happy to be finding dimes at the darnedest times and in the darnedest places."
Crowding the Penfield Library lobby in their red and white colors were dozens of Alpha Sigma Chi sisters, members of the sorority Brunner belonged to.
One was Cindy Hottelman Lynch '89, who became very close with Brunner. She said it was "great to celebrate their lives. They were amazingly fun people."
Also on hand were more than 15 participants from the London program that year. They came from as far away as Boston to remember their fellow travelers who perished.
Memories flooded back.
Joanie Pelzer '89 remembered the art teacher in London, Chris, who wore a black turtleneck and black jeans every day and talked about "A Bar at the Folies Bergere," the last work by the painter Edoard Manet.
Deanna Grant Cudahy '90 recalled that every day, the group would have "toast and jam with tea" for breakfast.
Allen Reynolds '90 came in from Rochester for the memorial. "It's good to be with everyone and share our memories." Of the London study abroad trip, he said, "It definitely changed my perspective. My life changed."
It was a theme of the day. Lang summed it up when he said of Brunner and Hartunian, "Their lives touched ours and changed us forever."
-- Michele Reed
Upper photo: Janette Hausler '89 spoke to a group of more than 100 family, friends and classmates of Colleen Brunner '90 and Lynne Hartunian '89, who died in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 Dec. 21, 1988. Hausler also was on the study abroad trip with her two friends.
Lower photo: Alpha Sigma Chi sisters attended the ceremony and brought along the plaque that features the names of winners of the Colleen Brunner Award. Each year the sorority selects a sister who embodies Brunner's values and personality to receive the award.
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