A life remembered

Silvia Gilman

A memorial was held last Friday in honor of student Brittany Stotko, who died on Jan. 6, while lost in a snowstorm in Pine Creek, near Mammoth Lake, Calif.
“She was an amazing young woman and inspiration for anyone her age,” said her father, Steve Stotko. “She loved life and loved to dance. Nearly 700 people came to her funeral. Just think about it, she was 19 years old, and so many people just loved her,” he added.
“I dedicate this semester to Brittany,” said Eric Wise, one of Stotko’s teachers. “The moment when it started to hit me was when I sat in my car, and thought about my own daughter.”
Wise, an associate professor of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies, gave one of the speeches at the memorial service in front of the Eli Luria Library. He said he had the chance to get to know Stotko and her boyfriend, Garret Stolzfus, during the time they spent in the science lab.
“She is an example of why you need to do what you want to do, and be doing that today,” said Wise. “For my students I hope they participate in class, get the most they can get out of it and enjoy such a wonderful experience that college provides.”
Teachers, faculty, staff and family members came together to remember Stotko, whose picture was displayed on a table with a lit candle beside it. Her father attended her funeral along with her grandmother, some relatives and Stotko’s boyfriend.
“We stop and honor the life of an individual that was important to us,” said Keith McLellan, dean of educational programs.
Wise said at the end of his touching speech, “Brittany wanted to major in journalism and English. She grabbed life and was an idol for other students.”
According to the college, the 19-year-old student got stuck with her mother in their car during a blizzard in the Mammoth Lake area. After three days, she decided to leave the vehicle and her mother behind to get help, but never returned. Helicopters rescued her mother in the morning of Jan. 4 just 10 hours after her daughter left the snowed-in car.
Stotko’s mother was brought immediately to a hospital where she quickly recovered. Search parties continued the rescue attempt for Stotko, but she wasn’t found until the morning of Jan. 6, a mile and a half away from the vehicle. Officials state that she succumbed to hypothermia and exposure, while walking through two to three feet of fresh snow.
“Brittany was a vibrant and charming young woman with a great outlook on life. She should have lived to be a mother; a grandmother and she had so much vitality to give to others. She was always smiling and bubbly and full of life,” said Wise in a letter.
He ends his letter saying “I will show her picture to my classes and remind them of why they need to live each day. My thoughts are with Garrett, who loved her deeply and to her family. I can’t even begin to comprehend their loss.”