Vigil Honors Memory of Local Teacher

By: Matt Holmes Email
By: Matt Holmes Email

Saturday November 3, 2007

It's called a happiness quilt.

Justine Swartz helped make one when she was in kindergarten, and now some of the students who had her as a kindergarten teacher are making one of their own.

A year after her death, these kids are still having a hard time understanding why someone would take their teacher's life.

"She just touched their lives so much that she's going to be part of their lives forever," Justine's co-worker Janna Kincaid said as she consoled her sobbing daughter. The girl was one of Justine's students.

Justine was out taking a drive early one November morning after her husband says they had had an argument. She called for help when her car broke down, and when he arrived, he found her dead in the middle of the road.

State police have investigated now for a year, and still no arrests have been made. That's a fact that doesn't sit well with many who loved Justine.

"There's no closure," Kincaid says, "for us as teachers and friends until we can find some kind of justice."

Family friend Al Hoover introduced Justine's parents and sister at the vigil. He later said he'd like to see police make an arrest.

"God forbid we have to have another [vigil] in 2008, but if we do, we'll be here and nobody's going to stop until this is solved, because it's solvable."

Justine's mother addressed well-wishers at the Saturday night vigil, reminding them her daughter lives on in spirit.

"She walks this world with us still: her true beauty, her gentle spirit, her grace and her light."

On a night when folks were encouraged to think less about a sad anniversary and more about a rich life, the happy memories, like those on Justine's quilt, weren't hard to find.

"She had a greater impact than she would have ever known," Kincaid said, looking at the crowd of more than 100. "I think that's just a testament to her."

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