Life at Mastery : In the News : Hugs, memories, a library

Hugs, memories, a library

Monday, June 9 2014. By Jeff Gammage, Inquirer Staff Writer

The library has one wall painted bright yellow, because that was Jamie Soukup Reid's favorite color, and six chess sets, because she loved and taught the challenges of the game.

Among its 6,000 books are some of her personal favorites, like Holesand To Kill a Mockingbird, and others that she shared with her students.


On a table stands a doll of Ms. Frizzle, the eccentric flame-haired teacher in The Magic School Bus. Reid so loved those stories that she dressed as Ms. Frizzle for Halloween.


The library at Harrity Elementary in West Philadelphia filled Friday with dozens of family members and friends who shared hugs and memories and stories - and tears that sprang from a still raw ache.


They joined to dedicate the Jamie Soukup Reid Library in her former school, honoring a young woman's love for the written word 10 months after she and her teacher husband were killed in a North Carolina car crash.


"It's wonderful," said her father, Ron Soukup, "so many personal touches. It's the perfect memorial for Jamie."


Her mother, Kay Soukup, added: "It's bittersweet to be here. But it's such an honor."


Reid's parents traveled from Washington state, her sister from Hawaii, her friends from Boston, New York, and Washington, and from across the Philadelphia region. They celebrated a woman whose excitement about libraries was based on the belief that all children deserved books and education.


"We feel the library is a very special place," said principal Lucilla Ra'ifa, "a place where we can remember Jamie."


On a wall hang Reid's degrees from Whitman College and the University of Pennsylvania. A computer screensaver shows a campus scene from Washington state.


"It's clear that they knew her well," said Kelly Lyman, Reid's older sister.


In her library at Harrity, a Mastery Charter School, students will be able to sate their curiosity, explore new worlds, discover passions.


"It captures so much of Jamie's spirit," said Hong-Nhi Do, a friend who teaches in Brooklyn.


At Friday's ceremony, students read letters they wrote to Reid after her death.


"I can't believe you're not here," said eighth grader Mikayla Tyler, 14. "You changed my life more than you know."


"I miss you," said Massandje Bosso, 13, in eighth grade. "I loved how you spoke from the heart."


Students broke down as they sought to explain what Reid meant to them and how they miss her. One asked, "Are you watching over me?"


Reid, 25, and her husband, Will Reid, 26, died with their unborn child in an Aug. 11 crash in Asheville, less than three months after they wed. They were riding in the backseat of a hired limousine, heading to the airport to return to Philadelphia, when the car ran off a highway and smashed into a tree.


The limousine driver, Rodney Koon, 46, of Asheville, was sentenced last week to at least 12 years in prison. Prosecutors said he was high on crack cocaine from an all-night binge when he picked up the couple at their hotel.


On Friday, Reid's principals and fellow teachers said they missed her smile. And the scent of the flowers that Will Reid sent to her each week. They missed her grace, elegance, and sense of fun.


"Jamie loved this school, and she loved the kids," said a tearful Stephanie Silver, maid of honor at Reid's wedding.


Jamie Reid's love of books was much more than occupational.


Her father, a retired Microsoft engineer, told how as a child Reid read everything she could find, soon wearing out his wallet. He promised to buy all the books she wanted so long as she read them. But after a few months of expensive trips to the bookstore, her father suggested they visit a new place: the library.


At Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., Reid edited the student newspaper and was resident adviser of the university Writing House. She threw themed parties based on books, such as The Great Gatsby, and created a CD of songs about literature, including "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend. The impact of reading Ulysses in college drove her to Ireland.


She and Will Reid had come separately to Philadelphia in 2010 to join Teach for America, and met while earning master's degrees in urban education. They married May 16 at the College of Physicians, exchanging their vows in the Ashhurst Room, once a library reading room that now houses a historic card catalog.


Jamie Reid was poised to enter her third year of teaching seventh-grade English, and Will Reid taught sixth-grade math at the People for People Charter School on North Broad Street, a few blocks from the couple's apartment at Lofts 640.


The Jamie Soukup Reid Library was built with $84,000 in donations, created in what used to be a classroom. On a wall hangs a Harrity Elementary shirt signed by students. One section holds books donated by teachers, each text containing a handwritten message of remembrance.


"There was a lot of thought and a lot of love put into that library, and it shows," Reid's father said. "When I'm in there, I feel Jamie with me."

215-854-4906 @JeffGammage