Plainfield girl remembered at memorial service


  • Summer Steele SUMMER STEELE

For The Recorder
Friday, November 04, 2016

SHELBURNE FALLS — A week after her young life was cut short, 9-year-old Summer Rand Steele of Plainfield was remembered by friends and family at a memorial service Friday afternoon.

Summer was killed Oct. 28 as she was getting off the school bus after a day of school at Sanderson Academy in Ashfield.

Mohawk Trail Regional School District Superintendent Michael Buoniconti on Friday called her death an “unspeakable loss” and vowed to share Summer’s story with his colleagues across the country as a way to improve school bus safety.

A celebration of life service to honor Summer was held Friday afternoon at Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls, followed by a private burial in Arms Cemetery and a gathering at the Shelburne Falls Eagles Club.

The Recorder did not cover the memorial services out of respect for the Steele family’s request for privacy in their time of loss.

The circumstances of the accident near Summer’s home on South Central Street in Plainfield remain under investigation by authorities. The bus driver, who has not been identified, works for F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc. of Gill.

“We are all heartbroken over the loss of Summer,” Buoniconti said in an email. “Perhaps the most important thing that we can do as a school community is support her younger sister, Skyler, in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Perhaps this collective hug and ongoing love to support Skyler and the entire Steele family is one way that we can honor Summer’s memory.”

In addition to supporting the Steele family, Buoniconti said he intends to share the story of Summer’s death with his colleagues across the country.

“Another way that I am hoping to honor Summer is by sharing this tragedy with superintendents across Massachusetts and the United States in hope of preventing its re-occurrence to another innocent family,” Buoniconti said.

According to her obituary that ran in The Recorder, Summer Rand Steele loved to grow sunflowers and catch butterflies. When she went to the beach with her family, she looked for heart-shaped rocks to add to her collection. In September, she had a dance party sleepover to celebrate her 9th birthday.

Summer is survived by her younger sister, Skyler Steele, and her parents, Amanda and Brent Steele. According to her obituary, Summer and Skyler spent hours jumping on their trampoline and making up dances and games. The sisters were referred to as “Summer Sky” by their family. Summer had many special friends, the obituary said, and she loved to make new ones.

Summer attended Ashfield Community Preschool and then Sanderson Academy, where she was in third grade at the time of her death.

Summer stuck to a daily morning routine of cozy blankets and cartoons after feeding her bunnies, according to her obituary. Summer and her mother were “two peas in a pod,” the obituary said.

A Go Fund Me campaign created in Summer’s honor has raised more than $97,000 over the past five days. As of Friday afternoon, 1,230 people had donated money.

According to the website, the donations are to help the family with funeral arrangements and also as a financial safety net as both of her parents do not have the luxury of paid time off.

“We have received donations from friends, family businesses and complete strangers from all over the country,” a post on the page said. “It is comforting to know that Summer has touched so many people’s hearts.”

According to Summer’s obituary, memorial contributions can also be made to the Summer Steele Scholarship Fund. The mailing address is Mohawk Trail School District/Summer Steele Scholarship Fund, ATTN: Angel Bragdon, 24 Ashfield Road, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370.