Omega Phi Alpha mourns, remembers alumna with honorary balloon release

Photo by Alexis Marshall/ Assistant News Editor

Members of Omega Phi Alpha service sorority gathered at the Student Union Building on Sunday night to honor the memory of MTSU alumna Ruthie Evans, who committed suicide late Friday night.

Senior Abby Howard, 20, organized the event to facilitate the grieving process for other members of the organization. She brought several dozen balloons and markers for members to write messages to Evans. Howard said that she wanted the event to focus on Evans’ life and contributions to the sorority and not the details of her death. Evans graduated from MTSU in December of 2016, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

“A lot of people have turned her death into suicide prevention advice, and while that’s fine… we still need to remember her as a person, and we need to heal,” Howard said. “So tonight, we aren’t talking about suicide. We’re not talking about suicide prevention. We’re talking about her.”

According to Howard, Evans was a social worker with a heart for service. She described Evans as a kind, loving person.

“She spent her life helping other people before she would help herself,” Howard said.

Howard said that the news of Evans’ death came as a big surprise to her. Many of the other sorority members echoed that sentiment, saying that she seemed very happy and that they thought they had more time with her.

Members remembered her as a bright, positive young woman. Daniel Johnson, the only man in attendance, said, “Whenever she walked into a room, the whole room just lit up.”

Favorite memories included a gift exchange party to which Evans brought a “squatty potty” decorated with the sorority’s letters and a yoga session that turned into an urban dance class gone wrong.

As more members arrived, they took turns with permanent markers, writing final goodbyes to their beloved sister on pink and purple balloons. Many noted her obsession with unicorns, her complete inability to twerk and her infectious personality. Several lovingly recalled her nickname “Ruthless,” adopted because of her blunt, brutal and often humorous honesty.

A theme that recurred again and again was Evans’ big heart. MTSU graduate Shana Atchley said she remembered Evans’ help at the sorority’s Relay for Life booth in the Spring of 2016. She said that Evans wanted to help do everything and was an enthusiastic participant in the event that helped sponsor cancer research. One of Evans’ best friends, Jocelyn Cruz, said, “I want everybody to remember Ruth as the girl who loved like no other.”

After many shared their favorite moments with Evans, the group commemorated her by singing a song secret to their chapter, one that they noted was always Evans’ favorite. They walked their balloons to the courtyard outside the Student Union and at the conclusion of the song, released their balloons. They watched in silence until the last one disappeared in the distance.

“She was the most selfless, genuine, warm-hearted, hilarious, laughable, unicorn-loving girl, and that is what I will always remember her as,” Cruz said.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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