Before Library Public Service Assistant Trisha Hurst passed away after a long battle with cancer, fellow librarian Rebecca Yowler visited Hurst and her husband, Jason Connell, in the hospital. During Yowler’s visit, the couple told a story about Seymour Library’s Red Room that stuck with her. Yowler decided to share the memory with the 90-plus attendees of Hurst’s celebration of life on May 13.
“At one point, up in the Red Room, they had moved out all the tables and chairs to prepare for an event. It was empty. Jason and Trish turned on some music and danced together. I can’t think of any other story that not only shows their love for each other, but their love for the library,” Yowler said. “For the rest of my time here, I’ll never see the Red Room the same.”
As Yowler held back tears, a slideshow of Hurst’s photos played across the monitors in Alumni Hall’s Trustee room. Among them included photos of Hurst in her wedding dress, a hospital gown after cancer treatments and various Halloween costumes. She was smiling in all of them.
“It was probably midnight when no one else was around, but they shared that moment together Just the memory they put in my head I always imagine the Red Room as it is, but Trish in a beautiful gown and Jason in a tuxedo doing a ballroom dance. Really, I know they were probably in jeans and t-shirts,” Yowler said.
The event was a celebration of life as Hurst had asked her loved ones not to mourn her in a 10-page memoir she left with Connell. The room was decorated with bright colors, small poems, potted plants and coloring book pages. The coloring book pages were the same ones Hurst left out for students to color during finals week to help them de-stress.
Hurst and a new life:
Knox alum Ann Novikova ’13 remembers how important Hurst was during their stressful times at Knox.
“Trisha was just the most nurturing person and so perceptive, but not in like a ‘you’re a delicate snowflake’ kind of way. She epitomized tough love. I had a lot of mental health struggles my first year. [Hurst] and Jason were such a foundation for me and sounding board,” Novikova said. “My sophomore year, I moved off-campus to a house next to theirs and whatever was going on in my life they would check in with me. She was just so empathetic and perceptive.”
Novikova mentioned that she would often play the fantasy game Dungeon and Dragons (D&D) with the couple.
“She played a ranger. There was an adventure she was in where one of the main dungeons is like a mansion full of undead. Trish basically got in there, was like ‘Pew Pew Pew,’ and mowed down everyone,” Novikova said.
When Novikova told the story, her young daughter Nadia fussed in her arms. As it turned out, Hurst was instrumental in getting Novikova together with her husband John Baillie ‘13. As a testament to her perceptiveness, Hurst had noticed a romantic potential for Baillie and Novikova as they played D&D together. She was the one to urge Baillie to pursue Novikova.
“As a very lonely, slightly depressed early 20-something, Jason and Trish and I played dungeon and dragons together we’re nerds. Once, they were like, ‘you’ve got this friend that you hang out with all the time, you should ask this Anna girl out on a date.’ I was like ‘What? No, we’re just friends,’” Baillie said. “Trish just stands there and stares into my soul for a second and is like, ‘go ask her on a date right now.’”
Baillie recalled getting another text from Hurst, right after he asked Novikova out, with location details of where he should take Novikova out on a date. Baillie motioned to Nadia and stated that ‘Obviously, it worked out well.’ The pair married a year after graduating from Knox on August 10, 2014. In honor of Hurst’s life, the couple will add a plant to their garden, as Hurst was known to be a lover of nature.
“We’re not sure what the plant is going to be yet, but Trish really reminded us to stay in touch with nature, the natural world and to cultivate it as well,” Novikova said.
As the Hurst celebration was brought to a close, attendees were asked to pick up wildflower seed packets and spread them in their communities. On May 10, Student Senate approved a $250 funds request to buy a tree in honor of Hurst’s memory. Though unsure of the exact location for the tree, grounds manager Jacob Morgan is looking into a location near the library.