Hundreds gather to remember U student

Nearly 1,000 attended a memorial service Sunday for Anarae Schunk.

Friends read Anarae Schunks confirmation testimony from 2008 on Sunday afternoon during her memorial at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.

Image by Bridget Bennett

Friends read Anarae Schunk’s confirmation testimony from 2008 on Sunday afternoon during her memorial at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.

by Meghan Holden

Anarae Schunk, an award-winning chess player, had a heart that was “too big to be checkmated.”

At the University of Minnesota student’s memorial service on Sunday, a large chess piece sat on stage in the Burnsville Performing Arts Center’s auditorium, where nearly 1,000 attendees heard stories about the sociology student, who was found dead last Monday after disappearing in September.

Schunk’s parents and family huddled together on stage, expressing their frustration, grief and love for Anarae.

“She was the heart of us all,” her mother, Mariana Schunk, said as she cleared her throat.

Anarae Kristine Schunk, 20, spent most of her time at the University working as a tutor, advocating for education reform and playing chess — her lifelong

“She excelled at the game of life,” said her former chess coach Brian Ribnick at the memorial service.

Schunk’s body was found in rural Rice County last Monday after she had been missing for more than a week.

She was last seen Sept. 22 with Anthony Lee Nelson when he allegedly shot
and killed a man in the parking lot of a Burnsville restaurant.

Nelson, 31, was charged with second-degree murder soon after the shooting.

Nelson’s current girlfriend, Ashley Conrade, 24, was also at the scene of the shooting. She told police that she, Nelson and Schunk went to Conrade’s Rosemount home after the shooting, where Schunk’s trail went cold.

Schunk first met Nelson at a bus stop when he asked her about the chess book she was reading, friends and family said Sunday.

She soon learned of Nelson’s criminal past — which includes convictions for first-degree aggravated robbery and time in prison — but Schunk’s friends said she wanted to help turn his life around.

“She believed in the good of the human soul,” Schunk’s brother Tyson said at Sunday’s service. “That we’re all created equally.”

Schunk broke up with Nelson last Thanksgiving after learning he was in a relationship with another woman. But there wasn’t “bad blood” between the two, Schunk’s longtime friend Sarah McNulty said.

Schunk had only reconnected with Nelson recently to get back $5,000 she had loaned him while they were dating, friends and family said.

Those who knew Schunk said she was a forgiving person who angered rarely.

“She always had something good to say,” said Marissa Kratochvil, a high school classmate.

Schunk graduated from Burnsville High School in 2011, where she gave a commencement speech.

University professors said Schunk’s presence will be missed and that she was difficult to forget in a class of hundreds.

“She made a mark on an enormous University,” Schunk’s former sociology professor Karen Seashore said in a letter.

Sociology professor Penny Edgell said Schunk visited her office hours often, was very engaged in class and often asked the questions no one else would.

“It’s hard to get to know students,” Edgell said, “but not Anarae.”