Wednesday, September 12, 2007

RIP Marissa

This posts relates to a previous post I made: Marissa is my hero

Marissa is the girl at the forefront of the bottom picture.

Obituary: Marissa Lee Boyan / Inspirational teacher at Bethel Park
Oct. 28, 1980 - Sept. 11, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When Marissa Lee Boyan learned, on her 20th birthday, that she had a life-threatening brain tumor, she returned to college to attend classes and live her life as normally as possible in the two weeks leading up to surgery.

Family and friends say she never complained during the long recovery from surgery and radiation, though the debilitating effects of treatment were difficult for a young woman who had always excelled in competitive swimming, track and cross country. Ms. Boyan worked to regain her health, graduating from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, in 2004, earning a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 and getting hired as a Bethel Park teacher and cross-country coach in September 2005.

The tumor returned last fall, and Ms. Boyan had to stop teaching in December. Her fight for life inspired a lifelong friend to attempt to swim the English Channel last July to raise awareness of her battle and to raise funds for a scholarship established in her honor.

Ms. Boyan died on Tuesday in Washington Hospital. She was 26.

"She told us she was not afraid," said her father, William E. Boyan. "We know now that she is fully restored" in keeping with the religious beliefs that the Boyan family cherishes.

Ms. Boyan grew up in Cecil, Washington County, and began competing in swimming and running events when she was about 10, when she met Brent McAuliffe of Canonsburg. Both swam with the Washington YMCA teams and would remain friends, though he would swim for the University of Georgia. It was Mr. McAuliffe who attempted the English Channel swim on her behalf.

At Canon-McMillan High School in Canonsburg, Ms. Boyan was an "A" student and a stand-out on the swimming, track and cross-country teams. Her swimming record in the 100-yard freestyle has not been broken, her father said. She also taught swimming lessons and coached younger children.

After graduating from high school in 1999, Ms. Boyan went to Kenyon, where she was a member of the college's NCAA Division III powerhouse swim team.

In the summers of her college years, she worked in the office of the Venice Presbyterian Church, the church she grew up in, said the Rev. Craig Kephart, pastor of the church, located in Cecil, Washington County.

When Ms. Boyan applied for a teaching job, she stood out from a large pack of qualified candidates "because of her spirit. I have never known anyone who was so passionate about being given an opportunity to teach," said Nancy Aloi Rose, assistant superintendent in the Bethel Park School District.

Mrs. Rose hired Ms. Boyan as a seventh-grade language arts teacher at the Independence Middle School. She also coached the high school girls cross-country team.

As a teacher and coach "she impressed all of us. She touched the lives of so many children," Mrs. Rose said.

David Muench, her principal, said, "She always carried herself with a lot of dignity. She was an inspiration to all of us. When her symptoms returned last fall, her overriding concern was how her illness would affect the students. She had a lot of spunk, strength and determination. She tried so hard to stay in the classroom, but in December she had to stop teaching."

In all areas of her life Ms. Boyan exhibited drive and determination "but it was a subdued drive and a quiet determination," said the Rev. Kephart. "When Brent McAuliffe came to our vacation Bible camp last summer to talk about the English Channel swim and the scholarship fund, Marissa came to camp that day, though it was not easy for her."

On July 22 Mr. McAuliffe attempted the 21-mile Channel crossing, though officials in England warned that five-foot waves, thunder, lightning and heavy rains made the swim a life-threatening experience. Mr. McAuliffe, an assistant swim coach at the University of Pittsburgh, had to abandon the effort after seven miles, but he was able to raise thousands of dollars for the Marissa Boyan Scholarship Fund.

Survivors, in addition to Ms. Boyan's father, include her mother, Janet Hanna Boyan of Canonsburg; her brother, Gregory Boyan of Buffalo Township; her grandparents, Jim and Lee Hanna of Canonsburg and William and Ruth Boyan of Cecil; and her fiance, Jay Fletcher of Hannibal, Ohio.

Arrangements were handled by Eugene C. Coleman Funeral Home, Cecil.

Marissa's Obituary from the Post-Gazette

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