Former Berkeley High School student Emily Kassier, who was known for her bright smile, big heart and love of teaching, died June 2. She was 18.
Kassier, a 2010 graduate of Berkeley High School, was attending Bennington College in Vermont, and while final autopsy reports have yet to be released, according to Kassier’s mother, Mary Ann Kassier, her daughter suffered two grand mal seizures immediately prior to her death.
According to Mary Ann Kassier, paramedics tried to resuscitate her daughter, but she was later pronounced dead. While Emily did not have a history of seizures nor had she ever experienced a seizure, she had been complaining of migraines prior to her death — a symptom that is now being looked at as possibly being related to her death, Kassier’s mother said.
“She wanted to come back here to teach at Berkeley High School, the reason being specifically to help those kids that struggled a little bit and to help them feel more confident and help them aspire to go to college too,” she said.
Janet Marsden, director of communications at Bennington College, said the small campus was “heartbroken” by Kassier’s death and that it was well-known that Kassier wanted to one day become a teacher.
“We have about 670 students here at Bennington, so it’s not very big, and you can imagine how something like this really just takes the community,” she said. “Her death has had a real pull on the community. Our thoughts are with her family and friends, and she will be sorely missed at Bennington.”
Marsden added that in addition to taking a wide range of courses at the college, Kassier had participated in a mentoring program at a local high school — Mount Anthony Union High School — where she provided guidance to at-risk students.
According to Kassier’s father, Charlie Kassier, his daughter also participated in a similar program at Berkeley High School, where she was able to help out in an English class where the teacher was on maternity leave.
“Emily knew the people and how the place worked,” he said. “Everyone thought she was a good mentor.”
According to Charlie Kassier, the memorial service held for his daughter on Saturday had many of her friends expressing how much they would miss her — from friends flying to Berkeley from Bennington College to express their condolences to the senior class at Berkeley High School making a poster with many students penning a few words of kindness to the family and saying how much they will miss Emily.
“People can say positive things, but I’m not sure I’d really do justice to her,” Charlie Kassier said. “She was committed, and quality mattered to her. Her friends are broken up by this, more so than adults in some cases.”
Kassier’s mother said in addition to her daughter being involved in volunteer extracurricular activities, Kassier was also involved in dancing at Berkeley High School.
It was in these activities, Mary Ann Kassier said, that her daughter’s qualities of being “a good friend” and being compassionate, kind and intelligent really shined through. It was also through the volunteer work and the dancing program that Kassier made many lasting friendships and made a positive impact in the lives of others, her mother said.
“She had a huge bright smile and always welcomed friendships,” she said. “She will be remembered fondly for her humor and her generosity with friends.”
Kassier is survived by her mother, father and one younger brother.
Katie Nelson is an assistant news editor.