On February 12, 2014 beloved Montrose student, Elizabeth Schickel ’16 was called home to heaven, a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
On February 17, hundreds of members of the Montrose family and hundreds of Elizabeth’s relatives, friends, teammates and neighbors gathered, heartbroken, to pay their respects to Elizabeth. Attendants to her wake waited to greet her family in a line that stretched throughout St. Patrick’s Church in Natick, out the door, and down the street. Friends smiled and wept as they viewed the many photos of Elizabeth in the waiting area.
An overflowing crowd filled the pews, lined the walls and spilled out the main entrance of St. Patrick’s Church for Elizabeth’s funeral on February 18. The Schickels arranged the music and invited Montrose music teachers Holly Sullivan and Karen Demirjian along with longtime family friend, Margie Quinlan, as cantor to lead the choir. The selections included Elizabeth’s favorite hymn, “Hail Holy Queen,” an a cappella version of Montrose standard “Shelter Your Name” and “Non Nobis.”
“Sweet Elizabeth, we were lucky to have you!” Elizabeth’s father Abe Schickel began his eulogy
. “I remember coming home very late from work one night and she said to me, ‘Daddy, thanks for working so hard for our family.’ What love and grace she lived with.”
As fresh snow blanketed the earth, family and friends bid their final farewell at St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Afterwards, everyone was invited to a luncheon at Montrose School. Those gathered exchanged reminiscences of a vibrant, affectionate, faith-filled and fearless girl.
“Elizabeth arrived at Montrose a delightful and somewhat shy eleven-year-old,” sixth grade teacher Heather McKinney observed. “And she emerged,” Head of School Dr. Karen Bohlin said, “a spitfire scholar-athlete, recognized by teammates, opponents and coaches across the league as tenacious, talented and determined. She always gave her best. And her open, welcoming manner made room for everyone. She had an uncanny appreciation for what matters most.”
"Elizabeth’s thoughtfulness knew no bounds," Dr. Bohlin continued. “I visited her the day before her operation and received a handwritten thank you note in the mail two days later.” Last February, while still recuperating from brain surgery, she made dozens of Valentines for her classmates, teachers, nurses and her hospital roommate.
Elizabeth is loved and remembered at Montrose for her huge heart, her endearing mischief and her wonderful spontaneity. In her freshman year, as class president she arrived late from a soccer game to join her classmates preparing for their big fundraiser. Confidence was waning and stress was mounting as they struggled to beat the clock and pull the event together. “Elizabeth ran (or rather, danced) through the cafeteria and other rooms,” her homeroom teacher explained, “delighting in the decorations and stations already set up and enthusing everyone, ‘It's our first fundraiser!! Our very first fundraiser!!’ Spirits were lifted, and the evening ended up an enormous success.”
“There wasn't a sport we played she wasn't good at,” said former Montrose coach and Athletic Director Betsy McQuade '03. “She had a pure sense of joy playing the game. Elizabeth was the smallest and youngest on the varsity soccer team, but with her skill and athleticism she fit right into a higher level of play. She flew up the field with her curly blond hair; she looked like a flash of lightning. She was up against defenders three times her size, and she would whiz right by them and find an opening for a shot on goal. And she would giggle. Elizabeth was disciplined. She would practice on her own to hone her skills. That's what made her stand out. She had the talent and natural athleticism, but combined with discipline and character, she was determined to improve and succeed. My latest memories of Elizabeth are seeing her on the sidelines at the lacrosse and soccer games cheering on her teammates. She was calm, peaceful, and kept her sense of joy. She brought so much joy to those around her.”
“When Elizabeth returned to school this fall,” Dr. Bohlin said, “I met her racing down the hallway - with her cane. ‘What’s the hurry, Elizabeth?’ I inquired. ‘We are going to the Thomas Upham house this afternoon. I haven’t seen them since last year!” she exclaimed. Elizabeth took good care of the residents. Teacher Kate Cusack explained that there was an elderly woman who was unable to communicate but seemed to want a drink. “Elizabeth pointed her out to me, and then gave me advice on how best to help, as the woman could not handle the cup on her own. During the rest of the visit, Elizabeth kept a loving watch to make sure she was comfortable.”
This past fall in Elizabeth’s American Literature class, she wrote an essay in response to the prompt: How would I like to be remembered? Her essay, entitled “A Memory of Me,” began with the following:
I am the kind of person who becomes spontaneously motivated and then I am too lazy to tie my shoes the next morning. At times, I break into tears about a lost earring, or create a karate regimen consisting of power smoothies and daily workout sessions. I tend to daydream about my future, chase my shadow when I’m alone, or become distracted by a lazy ant exploring the creases of my shoe.
English teacher, Caroline Fisher remarked, “I love her bold, honest voice.” And her essay continues with her characteristically bold reflections:
Like everyone else, I want to be remembered as a hero, one who defeats the impossible. But the impossible doesn’t mean defying gravity or running on water. My impossibilities are the challenges that prevent me from being the person I desired to be.... My goal is not to be remembered for what I can’t do, but for regaining my lost abilities. I would like to be remembered for rising up with full confidence and functioning without extra help or accommodations.
“Elizabeth, you certainly are our hero,” said Dr. Bohlin. “It was not just the way you rose above your limitations. It was the way you lived and loved each day.”
“In her fifteen years,” Mrs. McKinney observed, “Elizabeth Schickel has touched more lives, inspiring them and bringing them closer to God, than most people do in a lifetime.”