By LOU MUMFORD
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
4:48 PM EDT, October 17, 2011
BERRIEN SPRINGS -- Online tributes continue to be received regarding the death of Esperanza Alvarez-Muniz, the assistant dean of women at Andrews University's Lamson Hall who died Friday in a traffic accident.
A statement by the university reported Alvarez-Muniz was driving with her mother, Lidia Duran, to pick grapes and was heading east on Dean's Hill Road about 4:30 p.m. when she failed to yield at Michigan 140 in Berrien Center. The vehicle was struck on the driver's side by a southbound auto.
The statement said Alvarez-Muniz was dead at the scene and Duran was transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the other auto, identified by Berrien County sheriff's deputies as Frank Simko, 49, of Berrien Center, escaped injury.
Alvarez-Muniz's husband, Paul, was in Maryland at the time of the accident, the university reported. After he and other family members were notified, word of the tragedy was released on campus, with campus ministry chaplains notifying hundreds of students attending a campus worship service known as Fusion. It was only a matter of seconds before online tributes began to appear on Facebook and other newsfeeds, as did messages of comfort and support for the family.
Jennifer Burrill, dean of women at Lamson Hall, described Alvarez-Muniz, known to many simply as "Espi,'' as a "genuine, compassionate, resilient, strong and courageous woman of God.'' Her faith, Burrill said, was "palpable.''
"Just last evening (Thursday), she was walking around third floor writing messages on dry-erase boards hanging on some of the doors,'' Burrill recalled. "I remember thinking, 'She must care for us.' ''
Grief support and pastoral counseling services were made available throughout the weekend and today. Should anyone still be in need of someone to talk to, the dean on duty at the Lamson Hall desk can be contacted at 269-471-3446 and will connect the caller with a member of the counseling/pastoral staff.
A memorial also has been set up in the hallway leading from the main lobby at Lamson Hall. Strips of paper are available for messages that will be strung on a memory chain to be draped on a wooden cross outside of Alvarez-Muniz's office. The chain will be presented to her husband as a keepsake.
A support and prayer service was conducted Sunday night at the Lamson Hall chapel. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Staff writer Lou Mumford:
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