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MU will remember 14 students who died in the last 12 months

Thursday, April 12, 2012 | 8:14 p.m. CDT; updated 5:37 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 13, 2012

MU will remember 14 students Friday who died within the past 12 months.

MU Remembers is an annual commemoration of deceased students' lives. A ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. in Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union. During the memorial, tower lights at the Union will be darkened.

The 14 include 11 men and three women, undergraduate and graduate students. One was a Missouri swimmer; another was a member of the Missouri National Guard; two were members of Marching Mizzou. All had promising lives ahead.

Here is a look at those who will be remembered Friday.

BRIANNA BAKER

Brianna Baker loved spending time with family and friends.

With her bright blue eyes and quick wit, Brianna brought warmth and entertainment wherever she went, according to an obituary.

Brianna died in a car accident in Illinois on Jan. 22. She was 19 and a freshman at MU studying English.

She played volleyball, was in her high school band and helped with the summer reading program at her library.

SASHA MENU COUREY

Sasha Menu Courey was a nationally ranked swimmer for most of her teenage years and had Olympic ambitions.

Every day after school, she would attend swim practice for several hours. When she got home late in the evening, she spent the time left in her day writing in her diary and reading, which were her other favorite activities, her sister Kayla said.

Sasha died June 17 at age 20. She had suffered from a mental illness called borderline personality disorder.

Sasha, who was 5 feet 10 inches tall, was quite fit and strong. A sophomore majoring in psychology and journalism, she was a member of the Missouri swim team.

"She could scare my dad in any arm wrestling tournaments," her sister said. 

Born and raised in Toronto, Sasha came to MU after an hour-long phone interview with the swim coach where she ended up being the one to ask all the questions. 

Her sister said Sasha immediately fell in love with the other team members and her coach at MU. They talked about how the team's skill level was perfect for her; it wasn't so advanced that she was overlooked. 

Sasha had a vibrant, strong personality and loved to wear headbands, scarves, and sunglasses in bright colors like yellow, red, or pink, her sister said.

"She had a crazy laugh. She was lively, and one of the loudest."

Her sister also described her as focused and driven. A characteristic of borderline personality disorder is a tendency to drive away family and people close to her.

Kayla said Sasha was often quiet and kept to herself at home, but with her friends she was always a ball of energy.

Her teammate, Joseph Hladik, said this about her: "Whether it be walking home from the dining hall and stopping to search for four leaf clovers or dancing in the weight room at 5:45 a.m there truly was never a dull moment.

"She always knew exactly what to say when someone was down and always put a smile on the faces of others."

RICK COURTNEY

Rick Courtney, 49, will be remembered Friday. A student in the MU College of Arts and Science, he died May 7. He had been an attorney in St. Louis.

CALVIN GENEREUX

Calvin "Joe" Joseph Genereux III, 23, died Feb. 19 in an accident in Columbia. He was a private in the Missouri Army National Guard and would have been deployed to Afghanistan the following year.

Calvin was also a junior at MU studying psychology. In an earlier Missourian story, he was described by a friend as reserved, calm and intelligent. He could translate text in Spanish, German, French and Arabic.

His fiancee, Ashley McGee, called him genuine and said he loved to learn, write and read.

He was 6 feet 5 inches tall and athletic. In high school, he was a member of the football team, and he liked to run. 

DUSTIN HAINSFURTHER

Dustin "Dusty" Hainsfurther, 21, used to smile at his mother and say, "Live life, Mama."

His mother, Tammy, said he would call about every two weeks on a Monday or Tuesday to say he was coming home that weekend. His family lives in Carlinville, Ill.

"He'd come home with smiles and hugs and stories," she said.

On June 4, he died from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was less than a minute from home.

His mother remembers him standing at the back window of their home, not long before he died. She said he looked out at the woods and wetlands and said, "I can't thank you enough for raising me in the country. You taught me what I need to know. You gave me wings to fly."

Full of dreams and potential, her son wanted live life to the fullest, his mother said.

He was an outdoorsman who loved to hunt geese and ducks. He and his father ran a retriever training business called Webfoot Kennel.

He would have been a senior at MU with a personal finance management major and a minor in finance.

Hundreds came to his memorial service, his mother said. She remembers her son as an incredibly kind person, who took an interest in everyone.

"His heart and soul were always good," she said.

SCOTT JOHNSON

Scott Johnson, 41, was a teaching assistant in the MU mechanical engineering department. He died Feb. 29 at Boone Hospital Center.

He was married and had a daughter, Amber. He is also survived by a brother, Jim, and a sister, Karen.

PHILLIP PERRY

When people remember Phillip Perry, they think of his smile and thumbs-up  signal.

His mother, Jill, said he would stick up for anyone. In high school, when he caught a boy picking on a girl he knew, he put a stop to it.

"He took her aside and said, 'Don't let people talk to you like that. You're worth more than that,'" his mother said.

Phillip died in a car accident just outside of his hometown Hannibal, Mo. on Aug 2. He was a freshman at MU majoring in secondary education.

His mother said people remember his wrestling, but he was much more than that. Before every match, he would kneel on the wrestling mat and pray.

On their final day together, his mother said he wanted to hike up to a cave. He thought it would be the last opportunity because his brother, Tyler, was about to move to Las Vegas. So the three of them took that last hike.

Phillip stayed back to help his mother. But at the top, she said he dived right off the cliff near the mouth of the cave into the icy water below.

He had been afraid of heights nearly his entire life.

JEREMY PORTER

Jeremy Porter died in a car accident on June 26 in Muskogee County, Okla. He was 19 and had just completed his freshman year at MU.

He was with a group returning home from a visit to San Antonio to see a friend who just graduated from basic training.

Jeremy received the Wm. McCoy Award in 2009 and the Presidential Award for Academic Achievement. He received numerous scholarships, and he was a saxophonist in Marching Mizzou.

Katelyn Amen, who also belonged to Marching Mizzou, said in a previous Missourian article that Jeremy was extremely passionate about band.

"I just know that his heart was just really in Marching Mizzou," Amen said.

SEAN RADCLIFF

Friends described Sean Radcliff as friendly, welcoming and talkative.

Sean also died June 26 in the automobile accident in Oklahoma, according to a previous Missourian report.

A music major at MU, Sean played the saxophone in Marching Mizzou.

Outgoing and welcoming to others, Sean was always looking for ways to help other people, said friends Ryan Gavin, Elliot Naes and Katelyn Amen in the previous report.

Amen also said Sean loved to play the saxophone and was good at it. He inspired other band members to be better, she said in a previous report.

JUSTIN ROLLER

Those who knew Justin Roller consider him a hero for what he did before his death.

Justin, 27, died Aug. 17 of a pulmonary embolism. Shortly before the embolism, Justin was on a rafting trip with friends. A young woman fell into the water and was sucked under the raft.

His mother, Kathy, said her son did not hesitate to jump in after the young woman. But the current was strong and dragged them both through logs and floating debris. Justin held the woman to his chest, his mother said, using his body to shield the woman.

Doctors couldn't say for certain, but his parents believe the blows from the logs contributed to his embolism.

"I'm not sure he knew the young woman. It was just somebody who needed help," his father said.

A junior mechanical engineer at MU, he grew up in Jefferson City. He was tall, red-haired and stocky.

His interests included watching movies and designing and tinkering with projects. He was an Eagle Scout, but for him, it was more about service than his love of the outdoors.

"I wouldn't say the outdoors was his big thing. He did it because he had to," his father said, chuckling. He added, however, that Justin was a skilled and enthusiastic golfer.

He also proved himself a talented gourmet cook, making original creations for employees at the Bandana's restaurant he managed.

"He made them feel special when he would cook for them," his father said

RASHONDA STANLEY

Rashonda Stanley's parents remember her as bubbly, loving and positive person. She died Oct. 4 at the age of 22.

Rashonda attended University of Missouri-Kansas City on a softball scholarship and graduated in May 2011 with a bachelor's degree in biology. She was a graduate student at MU pursuing a master's degree in physical therapy.

"She had a feisty side," her father, Billy, said.

His daughter was the kind of person who always stood up for what she believed in.

"She wouldn't give an inch," her father said. "She had enthusiasm for whatever she did."

Her mother, Sharon, said they had a strong mother-daughter relationship. One of her last memories was of her daughter was from a wedding. Rashonda was the maid of honor and her mother remembers her at the reception, "wild and crazy, taking pictures and wearing different masks."

"She was a beautiful soul," her father said.

COLE STEELMAN

Cole Steelman wanted to be an aircraft controller and continue working on the family farm in Odessa after he graduated from school. He died June 11 when an all-terrain vehicle crashed in Lafayette County.

Cole had completed his freshman year at MU, where he was an agricultural business and economics major. 

He was athletic and loved to spend time outdoors, whether it was duck hunting, four-wheeling or fishing, said his father, Ronald.

Cole grew up on the family farm in western Missouri, doing chores and raising calves. He also was a referee for Little League soccer during spring, and he was a lifeguard at the local pool.

At the visitation in his high school, 1,200 people showed up.

"He never met a stranger," his father said. "He would talk to anybody from 3 to 93."

Cole was best friends with eight boys who would hang out at the farm, said his mother, Debra. When he was in seventh grade, he and his friends decided to turn an old, dirty chicken house on the farm into a man cave.

"They would even sleep out there in the summer," his mother said. "They would clean their guns and hang out there. Kind of like Tom Sawyer, I always thought."

He was president, vice president and treasurer of the Future Farmers of America chapter in Odessa. He was posthumously award the American Farmer Degree from the FFA, the highest recognition that they give. 

"He loved life," his father said.

JIMMY STONE

Jimmy Stone loved football, his family and giving to others.

He played football in middle and high school, participated in fantasy football leagues and kept up with the stats, teams and players, said his mother, Regina Stone.

"And he still played with his buddies out in the backyard," she said. 

Jimmy died on May 18 from injuries sustained in a car accident in St. Peters.

He had just finished his third year as an agricultural systems management major. He had wanted to go to MU ever since he was a child, his mother said. So much so that he didn't apply to any other colleges.

The summer after he died, his friends held the First Annual Jimmy Stone Football Game in O'Fallon, Mo., to honor his memory.

Every year for Christmas, when his mother asked what he wanted he would say, "Mom, I don't want anything. I have everything I need. Just donate my presents to a kid in need."

At Christmas, the Stones adopted a large family in his memory, she said.

"His last act of kindness was donating his organs to help others in need."

BENJAMIN WRIGHT

In a note to Ben's mother after he died, a girl from his high school called herself a shrinking violet and wrote that Ben always made her feel important.

The junior English major from Farmington died Nov. 22. He was 22.

Six-feet tall with brown eyes and dark blonde hair, he liked to spend time outside with his friends, especially at the beach for picnics, said his mother, Denise.

Ben hung out with an energetic and creative group of friends. His mothers said they made their own fun. One day they would decide they were going to paint a backdrop for a play, maybe paint a seascape. Another day they might illustrate a comic book.

Ben acted in high school, with roles like Lumiere in "Beauty and The Beast." His love of acting led to a stint in Los Angeles, but his mother said he came back to the Midwest because acting was too competitive.

He decided to pursue writing at MU instead, and that was when he hit his stride, his mother said. One professor from Mineral Area College, where Ben earned an associate of arts degree, said he was one of the most talented people he knew. 

Ben's mother said he was a charismatic, cheerful person who would brighten an entire room with his smile and personality. She added that he loved MU and thought Columbia was a great place to live. 

She received a letter from the MU director of libraries saying a book would be added to its collection in memory of her son: "Camera Historica: The Century in Cinema," by Antoine De Baccque. 

Did you know these students? We invite you to share memories of them with the rest of the community, in the Missourian's From Readers section. Please consider sending us your memories and photos. Email them to submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com.


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