BOISE – A solitary cello and a picture of Katy Benoit stooping to smell yellow daffodils greeted hundreds of people who came to celebrate her life Tuesday.
The portrait served as a visual allegory for her life, cut short on Aug. 22 in a killing that has shaken Moscow and the University of Idaho. She was 22 years old.
On Tuesday afternoon, her friends and family thanked her for her gifts of friendship, laughter and love.
Former teacher and mentor Ross Cook asked the hundreds gathered to take a deep breath and to look around at the variety and number of people who knew the young woman.
“That’s the expanse of Katy Benoit,” Cook said. “That’s the gift of Katy Benoit.”
Andy Benoit described the special connection he shared with his sister.
She would have been put off by a listing of her qualities and achievements, he said.
“She would probably lean over and whisper that anyone could be a star at their own memorial service,” he said.
After a row between the siblings, he said, Janet Benoit told her children to stop fighting like they were worst enemies.
Katy Benoit later apologized and told her brother that “I wasn’t her worst enemy, I was her best enemy.”
Andy said he would miss “in-the-flesh” moments with his sister, but he would continue to share his experience in the universe.
“I don’t feel like Katy’s and my overall connection has changed that much,” Andy Benoit said. “That connection is grander than anything on Earth.”
She would have counseled her friends and family to move on.
“ ‘Guys, quit whining about things never being the same,’ ” Andy Benoit believed she would say. “ ‘Things were never going to be the same anyway. The universe is always changing. Do you really think one event … can derail all of this?’ ”
When Benoit turned 21, she invited her parents out – and Cook and his wife.
They ended up at a Boise dance club on “tighty whitey” night, Cook said.
That meant folks in underwear and copious amounts of glitter and sparkles.
“I’m not sure Gary (Benoit’s father) has gotten over it yet,” Cook said. “It was great … Katy was showing us her people.”
Benoit graduated from the University of Idaho with a psychology degree and was eager to pursue graduate studies there, and after that her career.
She had a voracious mind, was keen on her own spiritual journey and was equally enthusiastic about making friends.
She was a gifted cellist, telling her parents after her first lesson she had found her instrument and “found her music,” Cook said.
On her last night, Benoit had a lengthy phone conversation with her parents, Cook said. They expressed joy about her life and future. They said they loved one another.
“Katy died a moment later,” Cook said.
The man who police believe killed her and then took his own life went unmentioned Tuesday.
Ernesto Bustamante, an assistant professor of psychology, was forced to resign from the university after threatening Benoit.
Instead of dwelling on the tragedy, those gathered Tuesday watched a photo slide show of Benoit’s life. The pictures showed a rosy-cheeked baby, a little girl with a page-boy haircut and ruffled dresses, and a high school and college student in jeans and sweatshirts.
Photos of holidays, birthdays, family trips, good times with friends, music recitals and hugs with her brother were accompanied by music.
The tribute ended with a photo of an open sky.
“What a wonderful gift she gave us,” Andy Benoit said. “So, thanks, Katy.”