MOSCOW – Katy Benoit’s loved ones painted a picture of a young woman full of vitality, talent and the ability to make friends with anyone, anywhere.
About 150 people gathered in the University of Idaho Administration Building auditorium Wednesday evening to celebrate the life of Benoit, the 22-year-old UI graduate student killed Aug. 22 at her home in Moscow by former assistant professor Ernesto Bustamante, who hours later turned one of his guns on himself.
UI President Duane Nellis said times of loss like this are times to reflect and come together as a community. He said Benoit’s life will continue on through music and memories, and the best way to honor her is to embrace her love of life.
“She was a Vandal,” he said. “One of our daughters, a sorority sister, a cellist, a psychologist in training – a bright, courageous young woman.”
The hour-long memorial service was filled with several performances of instrumental music. A cello, flowers and photo of Benoit decorated the stage.
UI music professor Bill Wharton, who was Benoit’s cello teacher, said he saw her grow up from an elementary school student in Boise to an adult in Moscow.
“Katy loved the University of Idaho and Moscow,” he said. “They became her home instead of Boise.”
He said Benoit, who enjoyed spending time with her sorority sisters, “learned to balance the academic life and the exuberant life.”
Wharton described Benoit’s love of people and pets, while a trio of her Alpha Gamma Delta sorority sisters spoke about spring break misadventures and meeting new people around the world.
“She admitted her parents didn’t approve of her hitchhiking, but she did this to meet more people,” Wharton said.
“She could make friends with anything,” added sorority sister Kylie Brown. “It didn’t have to be a person. She always made you feel important and that she loved you.”
Another of Benoit’s friends, Sarah Sutton, recalled finding a chain-link bracelet while cleaning out Benoit’s car. The bracelet, Sutton said, features seven statements that she feels represents Benoit’s life.
The first three statements – “hope,” “dream” and “love” – were qualities Benoit mastered early in life, Sutton said. She said the remaining four statements “tell you the most about who Katy was” – “finding passion,” “be brave,” “take chances” and “create change.”
Longtime family friend Mark Stephenson said Benoit’s parents, Gary and Janet, and her brother, Andy, have been deeply touched by the support and kindness of the UI and Moscow community.
“Thank you for all you are and all you did to enrich Katy’s life,” he said before the Benoits shared a musical montage of family photos.
Janet Benoit, who did not speak at the memorial, posted the following message Monday on her public Facebook wall:
“We are very humbled and grateful for all of the love, prayers and support we have received the past two weeks,” she wrote. “Katy was a beautiful daughter and sister, and we will miss her. Thank you so much for all of your kindness. Janet, Gary and Andy.”