Remembering Hayden Koch

Seabury Community Copes with Tragedy

Sage McHenry, Editor

“Hayden would always go to the tree after school and after volleyball and just wait there. It was kind of like her spot,” says eighth grader Bridgette Stucky-Dorris. In the wake of eighth-grade Seabury student Hayden Koch, the Seabury community has sought comfort in finding ways to remember Hayden every day. With the dedication of the tree at the front of the school, as well as a celebration of life held in the Commons, Hayden’s friends, family and teachers have gathered to honor and remember her life.

“[Under the tree] we put a bunch of letters, a bunch of stuff that people had written her and put on her locker and a bunch of stuff that she loved––like this little stuffed animal that she would play with in [faculty member Vannessa] Eicher’s room every day,” says eighth grader Adilyn Brewer. The tree dedication ceremony was attended by all of Hayden’s classmates. “I feel like she would have liked everyone coming together, but I feel like she would not have wanted too much attention.”

“It was nice to come together as a grade,” agrees eighth grader Vee Asher. “I think she would’ve liked that people were there…and the tree, she loved that tree.” 

“I didn’t attend the class meeting under the tree out there, but I heard that it went very well. I heard that from a couple of staff members who said that [faculty member Eric] Neuteboom was pretty instrumental, and that said that the students handled themselves very well at that event as well,” says faculty member Michael Pulsinelli, Hayden’s advisor.

The tree dedication was not the only ceremony held by the school in Hayden’s honor. Over winter break, a celebration of Hayden’s life was held in the commons. Members from all around the Lawrence community came together in support of her family and friends. The ceremony featured speeches from faculty, Father Rob Baldwin, and a slideshow full of memories from Hayden’s life. “The slideshow was really emotional, and I liked Dr. Eicher’s speech a lot too. Hayden really loved Dr. Eicher, so it was nice that they had her speak,” says Asher. “If Hayden saw the slideshow, she probably would have been like ‘no don’t show those photos of me!’ She probably would have been a little embarrassed, but I thought it was really nice that they did that for her.”

“Seeing all the people that came to [the celebration of life] would have probably been very important and special to Hayden. The slideshow that they put together too,” agrees Brewer. “I loved that there were so many pictures––not just of her and her family, but also of her and her friends.”

“It was nice to see…[Hayden’s volleyball team] there in uniform––that moved me,” says Pulsinelli. “You hate to reconnect under such circumstances, but seeing…family members and some parents that I have not seen in a while…it just reemphasized the idea that even in the worst of times we [had]…not just the immediate school community, but the extended school community.”

“What I really liked about it was, honestly, hearing from some of my colleagues, who I respect probably more than they know, helping me to make whatever sense out of this that we can,” says Pulsinelli. Head of School Don Schawang spoke at the ceremony alongside Eicher and Pulsinelli. “I could always listen to Dr. Eicher kind of tell me how to deal with something hard. I could always listen to Dr. Schawang’s advice about how to deal with something like that, so for me that was important,” he says.

The ceremony, organized by the school’s administration alongside Hayden’s family, seemed to go over well according to Pulsinelli. “Total shoutout to Mrs. Chindamo…she was very instrumental in planning the celebration of life here at school which I thought was handled…very appropriately.” he says. “That has got to be an impossible event to make pleasant for anybody, but I thought it went as well as it could have. I think people said what they wanted to say, and they got out the feelings they wanted to get out.”

In a time in which members of the community struggle to make sense of those things that within themselves do not make sense, coming together as one could not be more important. The ways in which the school chose to remember Hayden highlight the most valuable thing to remember during a time of loss: we are not alone. “I would not really have had [the ceremonies] any other way, because Hayden was one of my best friends. I know I am going to miss her forever, but just coming together as a community really helped,” says Asher.