“Fly high, beautiful butterfly.”
On Feb. 16, students, faculty and staff gathered in remembrance of Brianna Smarkusky, 21. Smarkusky died on January 12 after becoming ill while participating in a biology department field trip in Buck Township, Pa.
At the memorial held in the Henry Student Center Ballroom, friends and Wilkes University community members shared fond memories of Smarkusky.
The service began with Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Paul Adams welcoming family, friends, students and Wilkes faculty and staff who gathered to remember Smarkusky. Adams explained that the crowd which gathered showed “how much impact she had on this campus and her friends who knew her best.”
Adams explained that this was an opportunity for those who could not attend her funeral at St. Patrick’s Church, which had standing room only after all gathered, to pay their respects.
In speaking of Smarkusky, many described her as a woman of faith, being selfless, courageous, motivated, charismatic and caring.
After the Invocation presented by Kristin Osipower, the coordinator of campus interfaith, members of the campus community shared their memories of Smarkusky.
Dr. Kenneth Klemow, biology professor, shared part of the poem “Woman of Valor” by Eric Kingston. Klemow explained, “a woman of valor…defined by her actions..her valor makes the world change.”
In sharing his time with Smarkusky as her academic advisor and research mentor, Klemow shared that she had a “take charge attitude” that “made him a better research mentor.”
Smarkusky’s friends also shared their memories, as the group, known as the “fearsome foursome” had been inseparable since their freshman year.
Those who spoke during the service included Kasaundra Barclay, James Ardoline and Alexandria Gartner. They shared traditions that the group would partake in like attending the Bloomsburg Fair, spending snow days watching movies and getting Asian Kitchen and how Smarkusky often would be the “motherly figure” of the group, sending wake-up texts to the group chat.
Ardoline described Smarkusky as “more like the family we get to choose to have in our life.” Barclay shared that one day the friends had hoped to get tattoos, and Smarkusky had wanted a butterfly. Now, when they see butterflies they know Smarkusky is near. Gartner shared a fun memory, explaining that her friendship with Smarkusky was unique because, “it’s not everyday your best friend is the dairy princess.”
Gartner also prepared a picture slideshow of Smarkusky which included sweet moments from their time together at Wilkes.
Osipower shared that, “it is the remarkable men and women like Brianna that make Wilkes more than a university. It is a community.”
Smarkusky was a senior biology major from Nicholson, Pa. Very involved on and off campus, she played various sports including softball, basketball, field hockey, track and field and travel ball. Smarkusky was part of the Wilkes women’s basketball team her freshman year.
She also belonged to the Pre-Professional Society and Adventures in Science. Off campus, Smarkusky was involved with 4-H clubs, including the Wyoming County Grow’em and Show’em, Elk Mountain Baconeers, Wyoming County Beef Club and Sewing Club. In 2012-2013, she also was crowned the Wyoming-Lackawanna County Dairy Princess.