Family and friends celebrate "the girl who could light up a room"
By Victoria Slater, Abbey Gingras, and Amanda Hancock, Editors
Most Miami students aspire to be business people, lawyers, doctors, scientists or authors. But not junior Rebecca Eldemire - she had something different in mind.
"One time, Becca knocked on my door, and told me that she just really wanted to be a farmer," said junior Jacqueline Morgan, Becca's close friend. "I said, 'No, Becca, you're not going to be a farmer!' But that's always what she wanted."
As the community - friends, family and strangers alike - copes with the untimely death of 21-year-old Becca, her love for Earth and the environment, her passion for learning and her effervescent nature, carries on.
Love for people
Becca grew up in the outdoors of New Albany, Ohio, where her desire to protect the environment took root. She spent her childhood fishing and hiking by her brother's side, and her love of nature only grew as she got older.
"She would always bring home stray animals, birds, squirrels, cats, dogs," Marlene Eldemire, Becca's mom, said. "And she loved flowers. She would always bring me flowers. And I made sure to put them in a vase every time."
Becca always carried an animal bed in her car, said Marlene, in case she came across a stray cat or dog that needed help finding its way back home.
Becca had a soft spot for the environment and anything living, said Jacqueline.
"It didn't matter what it was - an animal, a vegetable - if it was living, she loved it," Jacqueline said.
Becca and Jacqueline were neighbors in Peabody Hall their first year, and quickly became close friends, the first Jacqueline made at Miami. Becca's genuine, forthcoming and lively personality could have a lasting impact on anyone, Jacqueline said.
Becca's mom echoed this sentiment, emphasizing Becca's rare ability to make a place in her life for everyone she met.
"You didn't befriend Becca - you became a part of her life," Marlene said.
Becca had a unique relationship with her older brother Josh, who graduated from Miami in 2014. They fought as siblings do, and Josh protected her like an older brother would, but what made their relationship special was the way in which Becca supported him.
"Josh has always been shy, and when they were little, he would be afraid to ask for things like a drink refill," Marlene said. "Whenever we went to McDonalds, she would go up to the counter, her head barely reaching above it, and would say so loudly, 'Can I please have a refill for my brother?'"
Junior Jenna Nicholson, one of Becca's roommates at Level 27 Apartments, recalled the friendship they shared.
"She was really easy to talk to, and she never judged you," Nicholson said. "She always had something to say, and it was always the right thing to say."
You can't talk about Becca without mentioning the word passion, said her grand-big from Phi Sigma Pi Honor Fraternity, senior Julianne Ballog.
"People say this about people, how they walk into a room and they light it up," Julianne said. "But, Becca really did that."
She remembers getting to know Becca, a quirky, artsy, creative type of girl, over trips to Panera, and how their conversations easily ranged from serious to silly.
"She's one of those people you could sit down and talk to about anything, she was so down to earth," said Julianne, who was one of around 60 members of Phi Sigma Pi who attended Wednesday's memorial.
Julianne talked about the way Becca's deep, chuckle-filled laugh couldn't help but make everyone in the room crack a smile.
"She had one of those really bright personalities that made everyone feel special and happy no matter what," said Julianne. "Becca was a fighter who would stand up for what's right."
Love for the Earth
Whether it was her love of animals, recycling, her studies or a good dinner recipe, Becca threw herself into everything that she did.
At Miami, Becca chose a double major in geography and geographic information systems, with a focus on sustainability. Geography professor David Prytherch, who was Becca's adviser, said he remembers the day Becca decided on her major, and how rewarding it was to see her choose that path.
"She was one of the brightest and most engaged students I have ever worked with. She is the kind of student you hope to be in your class," he said. "We were so proud she wanted to be part of our community."
Fellow geography professor Kim Medley added Becca was one of the top students in her class.
"Becca was especially sensitive to different views, different ways of thinking and the different perspectives of all the class members," she said. "I especially connected with Becca because she so paralleled my own passions-for the environment and for exploring new places … I will remember her always as one of my favorite students."
An interest in sustainability took Becca to That Guy's Family Farm in Clifton County, Ohio for a summer internship. Guy Ashmore, who owns the small family farm, spoke of Becca's work ethic and her curiosity as she helped raise produce, cut flowers and move livestock. She also learned how to can enough food to make it through winter.
"Becca was a delight to have here; she was self-assured and enthusiastic about the work we were doing," he said, adding that Becca was a trooper amidst long days spent working in the July heat. "Our whole family really cherished the time we spent with her."
Marlene Eldemire said her daughter continued canning food throughout this past semester, rising early on Saturday mornings to attend Oxford's Farmer's Market to ensure she had all the fresh fruit and vegetables she would need.
Jacqueline said that Becca was always eager to try new things, to take any opportunity that would force her out of her comfort zone.
"She tried to learn everything, and was always so excited to share what she learned," Jacqueline said.
Becca also dabbled in journalism, writing a front page article for The Miami Student. Jenna said Becca grabbed fifteen copies of the paper when her article got published and was so excited to show everyone she knew. Emily Crane, Becca's undergraduate assistant in JRN 101, saw that same enthusiasm in class.
"She was sharp. Journalistic writing can take a while to learn and she picked up on it quickly," Emily said. "It was clear to me from one semester with her that she was going places."
And going places she was. Becca was involved all over campus from her job at B.E.S.T. Library to her work with Green Oxford and Phi Sigma Pi. She hoped to travel the world in the future, perhaps open a restaurant or run her own farm, and she was already making plans.
"She had seen this trip to Iceland and she got so excited," Jenna said. "She called her mom and said, 'Hey mom, I've got this whole entire plan.' She really wanted to see the ice caps before they melted."
Another roommate, Brittany Shelton, also described Becca's sense of wanderlust.
"Her life dream was going to see polar bears in the wild," Brittany said. "Well, she had a lot of life dreams, but that was her most recent one."
Previously, Becca traveled to Arusha, Tanzania where she taught English to school children. Every day she would walk four miles each way along dusty roads to share lessons and her own positivity with her students.
Love for life
While Becca's life came to a sudden end, her memory will live on through the foundation her family set up in her name: Rebecca C. Eldemire Betterment for Environmental and Earth Protection (BEEPS).
"Her nickname since she was a baby was Beeps," Marlene said. "I used to sing 'The Wheels on the Bus' to her, and whenever I got to beep part, she would giggle hysterically. And the name stuck."
The foundation is meant to continue the work Becca never got to finish - to help and protect the Earth, the greatest love of her life.
Phi Sigma Pi plans to use the BEEPS foundation as their philanthropy from now on, according to Alicia Auhagen, Becca's big in the fraternity.
Prytherch, Becca's geography adviser, said he hopes to incorporate a memorial to Becca into the renovations to Shideler Hall.
"We want to keep her memory alive, but she's certainly already made her mark," Prytherch said.
To Becca's friends, she was the girl full of drive, full of spirit and a zest for life. To her family, she was the little girl with a heart of gold who grew up wanting to make a difference using everything she learned along the way. They hope this is how she is always remembered.
"We don't want her to be remembered just as the girl who died," said Alicia. "We want her to be known as the girl who lived; a girl who had a strong spirit and loved everything on the Earth."