Sarah Elizabeth Ochsenreither was a beautiful young woman, inside and out. She has often been described as a ray of sunshine, whose warm smile and loving heart could light up a room. Sarah, a senior in business management at West Chester University, was killed in a fire in the early hours of Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004. She had just turned 23.Sarah began her short journey of life in a small home in Hatboro, Pa. She moved to Downingtown at the age of 11.
Sarah had a rough adolescence, as many people do. But she was a strong girl, determined to achieve her goals and win all of life’s battles. Sarah had a painful falling out with her closest friends in middle school, but that did not stop her from pursuing other friendships. That same year, she found a lifelong friend in Tara McAteer, now also a West Chester University senior. As Sarah got older, she pursued friend-ships with nonstop vigor and love. Everywhere she went, people knew her and were happy to see her.
Sarah, merely a young woman starting out, could teach anyone a lot about life. She knew that people and fun were the two most important things in life. No matter how busy Sarah was with school, sports or work, she found time for so many people. She wrote letters, made visits and phone calls, partied, and came to birthdays, holidays, and family dinners. She did not do things simply for her current friends; she made a point to spend time with old and new friends, co-workers, family, and others. Sarah was everywhere, and still managed to accomplish so much in other areas.
Sarah began a successful academic journey at West Bradford Elementary School. She excelled in the arts, being first seat in flute at Downingtown Junior High School and winning numerous art awards. She excelled in sports as well; she played field hockey and was captain of the lacrosse team at Downingtown Junior High School. Sarah played intramural soccer and softball, and this past fall, played flag football for Victory Brewing Company. Her love of sports led her to cheer for the Eagles every game this past season.
Sarah’s heart was as big as her beautiful blue eyes. The AIDS Walk was extremely important to her, and she made a yearly effort to participate. She had a genuine desire to help people and she adopted the AIDS Walk as her most valued service activity.
Many people can barely handle the workload that school brings. Sarah worked numerous jobs during her school career: at Hechinger’s, Subway, Prudential, Rino’s, Stadium Grille, and Brickside Grille. Sarah even managed to earn her realtor’s license at Prudential Fox & Roach during her early college years. All of this did not affect her schoolwork; last semester Sarah earned straight A’s.
Sarah was well on her way to a successful career in business management. Her birthday just passed on Jan. 29. She was so excited when she got a suit, because she wanted to get out into the professional world. Her family was so excited at the thought of giving her that suit and seeing her realize her dreams.
Nearly 500 people crowded into the tiny Windsor Baptist Church for Sarah’s funeral on Valentine’s Day. These people were all deeply impacted by the loss of what they considered to be a dear friend. Sarah impacted more people in her short life than most people will impact in a lifetime.
Sarah’s death leaves us with a few important messages that may help anyone going through this crazy journey called life:
Love yourself, and take pride in all of your accomplishments. Sarah never gave herself enough credit, and she would not want you to make the same mistake.
Make time in your schedule for people. People are what make life worth living.
Do not lose your inner child. That child is who you are, and you should be proud of it. People loved Sarah because she was herself, and didn’t change that for anybody.
Live every day to the fullest. We all mistakenly think we know what is around the corner. Today you are here, and you should not take that for granted. Who knows what tomorrow holds? That goes for your loved ones as well.
Spend time with your family. Celebrate with, talk to, write to and find support in all members of your family. Family is forever.
Make as many friends as you can. Do not be shy, and do not be a hermit. You are a special gift to this earth that should be shared with as many people as possible.
Take part in the AIDS Walk. It meant so much to Sarah, and if not for this tragedy she would have participated in it for years to come. Sarah was robbed of the opportunity, so please do it in her memory. It would mean the world to her.
The end of this article does not signify the end of Sarah’s legacy. Sarah’s rays will radiate warmth and love every day, and her glow will shed light on even more of life’s lessons. This article could go on forever about what a wonderful person Sarah was. She will be greatly missed.