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The legacy of a beloved student at Beaver Dam High School lives on through books

Sophia Kircher passed away in 2020 but her memory continues through a “book nook” built in her honor
A beloved Beaver Dam High School student who passed away in 2020 is being remembered by her former classmates and teachers.
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 10:18 AM CDT
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BEAVER DAM, Wis. (WMTV) -A beloved Beaver Dam High School student who passed away in 2020 is being remembered by her former classmates and teachers. Sophia Kircher was just 17-years-old when she died. A mini-library called “Sophia’s Book Nook” has been added to her old classroom for her friends to enjoy and to honor her legacy.

“Some days I think of her and I smile -- but some days are hard,” said teacher Jolene Holtan.

Holtan is a special education teacher at BDHS and says Sophia was just fun to be around.

“Sophia was just a joy to have in our classroom,” said Holtan. “She brought joy to every single day she was here. She was just a light,”

A sweet photo of Sophia sits on the shelf on her book nook
A sweet photo of Sophia sits on the shelf on her book nook(Tim Elliott)

Sophia was a daughter, a big sister to two brothers Cole and Charley, and full of life.

“Sophia was the sweetest, spunkiest, sparkly little girl,” said Tracy Rabata, Sophia’s aunt.

Rabata says Sophia had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. She was also non-verbal. Despite her physical limitations, Rabata says Sophia never stopped shining bright.

“She had this beautiful and silly laugh and when she was happy, she would always be laughing and smiling. She had the biggest, warmest smile,”

Sophia spent most of her life in and out of the hospital. In 2020, Rabata says Sophia was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare disorder that is sometimes fatal. She passed away on November 10, 2020, at UW Children’s Hospital.

“It was a huge shock. I remember speaking with the other staff in the room and it took a while for it to sink in,” said Holtan.

“Her last days were very quiet, were very calm, were very loving,” added Rabata.

Classmate Logan Juneau has known Sophia since they were kids. “Ever since I went to preschool with her,” he said.

Logan misses his friend. “I think she was nice, she was funny, and I am very close to her parents,” he said

Logan Juneau reads a book he pulled from Sophia's Book Nook. Logan and Sophia have known each...
Logan Juneau reads a book he pulled from Sophia's Book Nook. Logan and Sophia have known each other since pre-school.(Tim Elliott)

To remember the girl with the sparkly smile and to honor her life, Sophia’s Book Nook was born.

“We knew that there was a need of books in her classroom. She was a high school student, but the high school library really didn’t fit for her and her classmates,” said Kelly Kuenzi.

Kuenzi is a family friend of the Kirchers. She and two other women came up with the idea for the book nook. They got the Kircher family blessing to set it up, and the rest is history.

“And we had an outpouring of love. I mean Sophia touched so many people in this community and even people who didn’t know her were still sending us books,” said Kuenzi. “We had a list of 75 books because we thought let’s just start with that and that was done very quickly,”

“Sophia really liked be read to and she had a couple different books that she would really like and would get her laughing,” said Holtan.

“What a wonderful idea that was, Sophie loved books she loved being read to,” said Rabata.

Sophia’s Book Nook is chock full at the moment but could expand in the future. There’s also a picture of a sweet and smiling Sophia on the shelf overlooking her mini-library.

“Whenever I think of Sophia now all I feel is joy. Every time I see a butterfly, I think of her because I know she’s blossomed now and she’s free,” said Holtan.

“I’ll miss you Sophia,” said Juneau.

Sophia's friends and classmates pose for a photo in front of the book nook
Sophia's friends and classmates pose for a photo in front of the book nook(Tim Elliott)

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