Saying goodbye to Erin

MUN mourns loss of star athlete

Colin MacLean
Published on July 2, 2012
Teammates carry the ashes of Erin Bursey from the MUN Field House Saturday following the funeral for the 21-year-old captain of the MUN women's volleyball team.
— Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

A fallen captain was laid to rest Saturday.

Erin Phyllis Bursey, 21, died Tuesday, succumbing to her injuries from a pedestrian-vehicle accident last Saturday evening in St. John's.

She was captain of Memorial University's women's volleyball team and a recent graduate of the university.

As a final tribute to this driven young woman, her memorial service was held in MUN's Field House, on the volleyball court where she spent countless hours teaching, practising and competing.

Her teammates, and others from MUN's sporting community, wore their jerseys. Her teammates sat in front of everyone, facing her smiling photo.

There were several speakers throughout the ceremony, mostly family, and they described a beautiful person with all her quirks and faults.

Honours graduate made deans list

"Erin," said Pam Bursey-Fitzgerald, one of her aunts, "being on this court where we watched you shine, I know your spirit is here and your grit and determination is embedded in these floor boards. You will continue to shine in our memories, but a piece of us will always be missing," she said, her voice thick with emotion.

More than 400 people came to Saturday's ceremony. One side of the stands was full, the other held scattered groups of people.

Sobs could be heard intermittently.

Originally from Weybridge on Random Island, Bursey came to St. John's when her parents, Glenn and Jackie, along with brothers Andrew and Colin moved to the city in 2006. She attended Bishop's College and then MUN.

She was a celebrated student, as well as an athlete who recently graduated with honours from MUN's psychology program. She made the dean's list.

She was thinking of studying medicine next year.

During her eulogy, her brothers said they had no qualms about how their sister would have achieved her goal - just like she always did.

They described her as the kind of person who could rub others the wrong way. She could be abrasive and driven to a fault.

But they said it with fond smiles.

Their sister would lecture them about making assumptions about people without knowing them first. She was a person who volunteered her time in countless ways, they said. She was a person who wasn't afraid to laugh.

"Erin was always coming up with harebrained schemes to boost attendance in this building for her games," said one of her brothers.

"This probably isn't exactly what she had in mind, but I know she's probably smiling. Maybe throwing her head back and cackling at the irony. I'll always miss the way she laughed at inappropriate times," he said.

The last person to speak was Bill Thistle, Bursey's coach and mentor.

He told everyone that he'd been interviewed so many times since her death that he was afraid of repeating himself. He'd wanted to say something new for her service.

Instead, he chose to read out comments the team had written about Bursey.

These were heartfelt and moving.

Most spoke of her tenacity. Others mentioned her drive. All mentioned her qualities as a leader.

"You are not only my mentor and my inspiration, you are my best friend and that will never change," wrote one.

Another said, "I will forever embody who you always pushed me to be. I will love you forever."

Thistle said," Erin, you inspire me and you challenge me. I'm so proud of you, so proud of your accomplishments and I'm proud to be your coach."

When it was all done and there were no more words to be said, a couple of Bursey's teammates presented her parents with her jersey. A poignant memento.

Finally, the team took up pallbearer positions. They carried their friend's remains to the waiting hearse.

One last trip off the court. Twitter: @TelegramMacLean