Campus mourns those lost over the past year

Nearly 80 students, faculty, staff and retirees from the UC Berkeley campus community known to have died during the past year were honored Wednesday afternoon at the 10th annual campus memorial service.

Shirley Muramoto

University Relations’ Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto plays the koto.

“No matter how they died, each and every person we lost this year was a vital member of our Cal family,” said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who officiated. Mourning as a community, he added, “affirms our connectedness and interdependence.”

The service, held west of California Hall, drew a crowd of about 150, many standing in the shade of the trees at the fringes on an unusually hot Berkeley day.

As is traditional, the names of the deceased were read by someone from the same community within the campus. ASUC President Vishalli Loomba read the students’ names, a long list this year of 14 individuals.

Birgeneau recalled 20-year old undergraduate Christopher Zahuta, who died in an accident in July while doing relief work in Haiti. Zahuta, he said, “exemplified Berkeley student passion for, and commitment to, public service.”

The loss of students means “lives of great promise cut short,” the chancellor added, noting that some of the families “are with us today, proud that their children were Cal students. We share in their terrible loss.”

Birgeneau also said Wednesday’s service was particularly poignant for him and his wife, Mary Catherine, whose mother passed away two weeks ago at the age of 102.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell plays the bagpipes during the campuswide memorial.

The somber event included a poetry reading by UC Police Lt. Adan Tejada, formal in dress blues, and musical reflections by the student a capella group Perfect Fifth, University Relations staffer Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto and Berkeley student Genoa Starrs.

Bagpiper Jeff Campbell closed the ceremony with “Amazing Grace,” pacing off into the distance as a flock of doves winged upward from behind the campus flagpole and circled against the lush green backdrop of the central glade.

Baskets of yellow roses had been provided, and many mourners were holding them when the ceremony ended. Some set roses on a table by the flagpole, beside other flower memorials and mementos to the deceased.

A list of those who passed away during the year and their campus affiliations can be found here.