On Apr. 13, more than 70 people attended Hudson Valley’s 2015 memorial service honoring college students, faculty, and staff who had died during the course of the previous year. Campus Chaplain Cylon George led the service, opening with a greeting and prayer that began, “We welcome all of you here today as we gather in the protective shelter of God’s healing love. We are free to pour out our grief, release anger, face emptiness, and know that God cares.”
Advising Specialist Sarah Retersdorf gave a short reading naming the 25 people whose lives would be remembered at the service. George then read Psalm 23, asking the audience to respond to the end of each verse by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”
Coordinator of International Student Services Jay Deitchman read an English translation of the Mourners Kaddish Prayer, a Jewish prayer traditionally recited at funerals.
Student Senate President Grace Harrison led the next reading, asking the audience to say “We remember them” at the end of each line. Then George moved to the piano to accompany vocalist Jenna Cantoli as she sang “You Raise Me Up.”
After Cantoli’s performance, George read the names of the 25 honorees in alphabetical order. After every name, a member of the audience approached and placed a cream-colored rose in one of two vases on a table in front of the podium.
When the vases were full, George invited the audience to share any memories they liked. About ten people spoke. One woman said that she had shared an office with Kathleen E. Siek Quirk. “Kathy Quirk was my friend,” she said. “We laughed a lot. We shared some fabulous times.”
Thomas Griesemer Sr.’s daughter spoke next. She recounted fond childhood memories of accompanying her father and his students on trips to Detroit to race the fuel-efficient vehicles they had designed.
“My dad retired from Hudson Valley in 2009. He moved to Florida, got married, bought a Harley, and spent the rest of his days reading in the sunshine with his two Shih-Tzus curled in his lap. And it was the happiest I ever knew him,” she said.
Four people spoke about John W. Judge. “He was happy to be here, and he was a real important part of the lives of those at this college. … He loved being part of our family. And I miss him dearly,” said Alexander Popovics, vice president for enrollment management and student development, who called Judge “a great colleague of mine.”
Judge’s two brothers spoke next. Both said they appreciated all that Hudson Valley had done for him. “John was my brother from five days old to 56 years old,” said James Kiehl, explaining that Judge was a foster child who had been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, causing mental disabilities. The state thought that he should be institutionalized, since he would “only be a vegetable,” but, said Kiehl, the family fought to keep him and sent him to school. “Here’s a vegetable that worked at a college,” said Kiehl.
Roberta “Burt” Gentner, a custodian at the Siek Campus Center, said that Judge was her buddy. She said, “I watched over him as a brother. And I will love that man, probably until the day that I die.”
An English department colleague of Brook Hobson’s offered a short remembrance, saying, “I miss her beautiful smiling face and her kind, sincere demeanor. We love you, Brook.”
Lucille Marion, vice president and executive director of the EOC, spoke about Marian Viasner, who had been her secretary. “It took us about two-and-a-half seconds to realize that Marian had so much to offer,” said Marion. “I can’t tell you what a phenomenal job that woman did in everything that she did.” She said that everyone at the EOC loved Viasner dearly. “She was greatly loved, and more than loved, she was beloved. And she will be missed by all of us.”
Deitchman, who had read the Mourners Kaddish, recalled of Joann Brodzik, “She was just a tremendous student advocate.” He praised her positive, upbeat attitude.
A woman whose nephew had been friends with student Alex Held spoke next, saying that Held had often helped her with housework out of the kindness of his heart. “You raised a fantastic son. You should be proud of him,” she said.
The service closed with readings by Popovics and Hudson Valley President Drew Matonak, followed by a performance of “Power of Your Love” by vocalist Hanna Infantado, accompanied on piano by George.
Several dozen people attended the post-service reception, which was catered by Chartwells. At the reception, Robert Kiehl, Judge’s other brother, fondly reminisced about Judge, saying, “He never was unhappy about anything.” He said that the church memorial service for Judge had been standing room only. “People kept going up and saying little things about John, so it was wonderful. People loved him.”