A classic rock playlist welcomed a throng of tie-dye doused friends and family celebrating Raegan Dare Barnhart’s 21 years of life Monday night in the Oxford Conference Center. Hundreds crowded the ballroom where Delta Gamma sorority members hosted a memorial service for the late senior.
Barnhart was a dietetics and nutrition major from Hernando. She died Nov. 18 while traveling to Texas for Thanksgiving. Monday night, her friends told stories of the light she brought to their lives and of the things she loved most.
From the memories and laughs Barnhart’s friends shared, it was clear she left an afterglow everywhere she went. Close friend Wilson Brown spoke Monday night, sporting a colorful Grateful Dead T-shirt.
“The amount of love she shared is apparent tonight,” Brown said.
Brown fondly remembered the night he met Barnhart, and how she confidently introduced herself to him across a jam-packed Corner Bar. He said even in this first night of their friendship, he could see how Barnhart genuinelycared for the everyone she met.
“She never knew a stranger and was the life of every party,” Barnhart’s roommate Emily Fortier said. “Everyone always wanted to be right where she was.”
Fortier said Barnhart was the only person she could share a car with for an entire cross-country road trip and still want to live in an apartment with the next day. She remembered her roommate’s love for late-night playlist crafting and documentary watching.
“Raegan is neither gone nor forgotten. We all know that we couldn’t forget Raegan if we tried,” Fortier said.
Caroline Burke was a president of Delta Gamma who crossed paths with Barnhart during their spring semester freshman year. She spoke Monday night wearing a lime green and white dyed shirt.
Burke said she could not think of one word to encompass Barnhart because a word like that does not exist. She said Barnhart’s genuine love of friendship and true love of music left an impression on her.
“I imagine heaven full of concerts, and I imagine her at every one every night,” Burke said. “She’s probably a little upset that we’re all crying so much about her.”
Burke played a slideshow remembering Raegan, which was appropriately backed by Norman Greenbaum and Bob Dylan classics.
Local pastor Jonathan Palmer came to the lectern after the slideshow. The Pine Lake Church pastor reminded attendees that there is a freedom in grieving, and it is OK to accept that. Palmer said he did not ever have the chance to meet Barnhart, but the night’s testimonies made him wish he did.
“I know she had a true love for people that was contagious, that was real, that was authentic,” Palmer said.
Palmer’s address closed the night’s service. He invited everyone to stay and talk with him and other Pine Lake members for however long anyone needed. As attendees embraced and smiled with each other, Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” played over the speakers.
“If she’s not taking guitar lessons from Jimi Hendrix right now, then I’m not sure what she’s doing,” Burke said.