Memorial service honors U student

Mehgan Lee

Elizabeth “Betsy” Johns, a second-year student at the University, died June 22 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth of complications from leukemia.

Betsy studied flute performance and French at the University for two years, the first as a postsecondary student. She was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in early March.

To honor Betsy’s life, the marching band held a memorial service for her Sunday at the steps of Northrop Auditorium. About 75 band members attended.

“We consider the band to be a family and when you lose someone in band, you lose someone close to you,” said Adrien Everest, a marching band member who helped organize the service.

Betsy was a talented musician, said her sister Emily Johns, a University journalism senior.

She played the flute, piccolo and piano and was a member of the University’s symphonic and marching bands. She was also a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, a national band fraternity.

“Her musicianship and artistry developed way beyond a normal 19-year-old’s,” said Jerry Luckhardt, music professor, marching band director and associate director of bands at the University. “She was innately gifted and had a musical depth.”

After her diagnosis and while receiving treatment, Betsy continued to attend classes, said Kelley Harness, University music history professor.

She took a make-up exam for music history one week before she died and ended up with an “A” in the difficult class, Harness said.

“That’s the kind of student she was,” she said.

Emily said her sister loved fashion. She remembered when some nurses showed Betsy how to use scarves to hide the hair loss she would experience from chemotherapy.

” ‘As if they need to show me how to wear scarves,’ ” Emily recalled Betsy saying.

“She was stylish,” said Jenna Cameron, a fellow marching band member and sophomore in music education. “Even at eight in the morning.”

At the memorial service, the marching band’s brass ensemble played “Closer Walk,” a funeral hymn.

In New Orleans, funerals are celebrations, said Maureen Holtzman, a marching band member and junior in music education.

The song starts out slowly to represent mourning, but the tempo picks up in the end to represent a celebration of the person’s life, she said.