Fayetteville Academy remembers Emmi Barbaro: ‘We felt like this was the right time’

By Kim Hasty

Members of the Fayetteville Academy Class of 2021 will be turning their tassels and celebrating Friday. But like many of the milestones they’ve experienced, they’ll be missing the kind-hearted girl who should have been celebrating with them.

Last week, they gathered to plant a butterfly bush outside the Lower School entrance in memory of Emmi Barbaro, who was 10 when she died in a sledding accident in 2012.

“Ever since Emmi passed, we wanted to do something,” said Fayetteville Academy headmaster Ray Quesnel. “We felt like this was the right time.”

Many of this year’s seniors were classmates of Emmi’s. And even those who weren’t have heard about her kind heart, sweet smile and giving spirit.

“After the butterfly bush was planted, they had formed an almost perfect circle,” Quesnel said. “They all stood there and were quiet for a little while.”

Quesnel said that the Barbaro family, including Emmi’s parents, Heather and Rick, and brother Julian have been invited to Friday’s commencement ceremonies, where the school will present them with an honorary diploma bearing the name Emerson Jean Barbaro.

A poignant moment to be sure. And one that Heather Barbaro welcomed with a caveat.

“She said that this should be about the kids who are graduating,” Quesnel said. “She wanted to make sure it was OK with them.”

So Quesnel asked them.

“To say it was OK with them was a bit of an understatement,” he said. “Emmi was a special presence. She had a special spirit.”