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Memorial Service Recalls Three Lives Ended Too Early

BU students killed in New Zealand crash honored

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Roch Jauberty gobbled life in chunks. He grew up in two places (Los Angeles and Paris), studied two majors (economics and international relations, plus a minor in business), juggled classes with jobs and student government service, and indulged his global curiosity studying in New Zealand.

“His life was like a fireworks show whose sparkles reached many hearts,” his father, Christian, wrote.

That fireworks show was extinguished in May, when Jauberty (CAS’14), Austin Brashears (ENG’13), and Daniela Lekhno (SMG’13) died in a van rollover on a remote road in New Zealand. Spring’s shock has yielded to fall’s promise of a new academic year, but “the work of grieving continues in this hour,” Marsh Chapel Dean Robert Hill reminded several hundred people at a memorial service yesterday in the George Sherman Union. Friends and family spoke of the victims’ lives; Brother Larry Whitney, University chaplain for community life, read the remarks from Christian Jauberty, who was unable to attend.

Four months after the tragedy, the accident clearly continues to stab at the heart of the BU community. Grief-stricken students hugged and reminisced in the hall outside the GSU’s Metcalf Ballroom before the service began, and a table in the back of the ballroom, stocked with 10 boxes of tissues, drew many takers during the proceedings.

President Robert A. Brown told the crowd that as he presided over the University’s Matriculation ceremony earlier this month, “I was touched profoundly by a sense of uncertainty, with the awareness that we could not know the future,” born of the van tragedy. “As a father, I know that I can only begin to understand that sorrow” felt by the parents of the victims. “To the parents of Austin, Roch, and Daniela, please know that you have our deepest sympathies and we will hold you in our hearts.…Our community is diminished by this great loss.”

Students comfort one another at the conclusion of the service honoring Daniela Lekhno (SMG’13), Roch Jauberty (CAS’14), and Austin Brashears (ENG’13) in the Metcalf Ballroom September 10. Photo by Cydney Scott

Students comfort one another after the service honoring the three BU students killed in New Zealand in May.

Other speakers shared memories of their lost loved ones. Thomas Brashears, father of Austin, recalled how his son sat in the family’s kitchen four years ago, trying to decide whether to accept admission offers from BU or the University of Southern California in his home state. “He proceeded to flip a coin and say, ‘Heads, USC, tails, Boston.’” When it came up tails, Austin told his father, “Tails never fails. Dad, give me your credit card. I’m putting a deposit down.”

Arriving at BU for his freshman year, his dad said that Austin missed the BU subway stop and had to hoof it several blocks lugging heavy bags. When he phoned home and told the story, his mother said, “That’s horrible.”

“He said, ‘But it was a beautiful sunrise.’ That’s my son,” Brashears said. “He could make lemonade out of anything.”

Speaking of Austin, Erik Frazier (ENG’13) recalled a lab partner who was “the teacher and inspiration I needed to get me through second-year physics.” Their final communication before Austin died was an argument, “unsettled, that we never got to apologize for. And that’s a guilt that will haunt me. But I also know how forgiving he was.” Three weeks ago, after sorrow over his dead classmate ruined a night out with other friends and caused him to break down in tears the next day, Frazier accidentally opened up his computer to the last project he and Austin had worked on. Remembering his friend’s humor, he noted, “Instantly, I couldn’t stop laughing.…I know he’s the one who made me open up that file that day.”

A quartet of Daniela Lekhno’s friends—Madeline Baker (CAS’13), Helen Israel (CAS’13), Alys McAlpine (SMG’13), and Hope Thomason (CAS’13)—choked back tears as they spoke from the podium, variously describing a woman of intellectual confidence who relished debate, never gave in, and usually won, yet who once asked a friend to candidly tell her her flaws, because it was “better to know them now. I told her, honestly, I would never change anything about her.”

She was a woman who “had hour-long conversations in Russian with her parents about life at BU”; who “was always concerned with others’ problems as if they were her own”; and who “was wise beyond her years.” She once wrote that “the hardest thing in life is having the self-control to deny ourselves the comfort of sadness.”

Five other students were injured in the accident, and Christian Jauberty also offered well wishes to those men and women, who “went to the end of the world in search for education and unusual experiences and found more than they bargained for.”

2 Comments
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

2 Comments on Memorial Service Recalls Three Lives Ended Too Early

  • Scott Nalette on 09.11.2012 at 1:03 pm

    Austin was a beloved member of our Men’s Club Water Polo team. It was an honor to get to meet his family and friends this past weekend as they shared their memories of him with us. We hope that you’ll take a moment to visit the webpage that has been dedicated to him to learn more about the amazing person that he was.

    http://www.austinbrashears.com/AustinBrashears.com/Welcome.html

    The men’s club water polo team will be hosting a tournament at FitRec on October 6-7 that will be dedicated in Austin’s honor. We hope you can all come out to show your support.

  • Amanda on 09.12.2012 at 1:40 pm

    The fireworks show was extinguished? No way. Those sparks are still reaching out to everyone’s hearts that knew him – that’s never going to stop.

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