By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Millicent Morros, 48, would have walked across a stage at Goshen College to receive her bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership in April.
Instead more than 75 classmates, coworkers, friends and family gathered Monday evening at Goshen College’s Newcomer Center in a Memorial Service to celebrate her life that ended March 4.
Morros was gunned down by her ex-boyfriend John Eric Haitsma on North Fifth Street while walking to work in downtown Goshen.
GC College President Jim Brenneman told the crowd that Morros will receive her diploma.
“All of her work was done and her project was done, it was the last thing to do for her requirement and she completed it,” Brenneman said.
The announcement brought tears to the eyes of her classmates in the DAES (Division of Adult External Studies) program.
“We were hoping she would get it,” said Kent Miller, a classmate in the program. “Millicent was a huge fan of pink and we will wear pink flowers in her memory at graduation.”
There were stories and antidotes shared by her GC classmates and coworkers at Yoder, Ainley, Ulmer & Buckingham law office during the service.
“It was heart wrenching and bittersweet. We would laugh. She was a Diet Coke drinker and that came out from the law firm and the class. She apparently lived on Diet Coke and that was cute,” Brenneman said. “She was a passionate learner. She did a project with Greencroft and was in a reading program at West Goshen Elementary. She volunteered her life — from the young to the old.”
He added the DAES class put together a wonderful account of knowing her in the 18 months they were together every Tuesday night for four hours.
“These people appreciate the degree more than the general student. They are working full-time while taking classes,” Brenneman said. “They stick together and are closer than the norm. It’s clear that you guys (DAES students) were tight.”
Miller nodded in agreement with tears in his eyes.
“She was so real,” Miller said. “She was almost intimidating. She was notorious for coming up with off-the-cuff nicknames for us. Once we talked a professor into naming her ‘Millie’. She didn’t like that at all. She was Millicent.
“She was an inspiration to see how she had blossomed and changed in class. What a warm and genuine spirit. She had been through tough stuff and didn’t try to hide it. The class always felt welcomed together. We shared the joys and the sorrows, like her death.”
Morros was a secretary for Bodie Stegelmann, an attorney with Yoder, Ainley, Ulmer & Buckingham, for more than two years.
“It struck me during the service how people would nod and say, ‘That’s Millicent,’ when someone talked about her,” Stegelmann said. “She was always positive, always wanted to learn. She gave of herself. She was decent and always about improving herself. She wanted to do well.”
Stegelmann shared how the staff is trying to cope with the loss of Morros by lighting candles and meditating in one of the rooms at the law firm.
“It’s almost like a little chapel now,” he said.
She was gunned down in the parking lot on the east side of Fifth Street, not far from the law office. . "People will walk around the spot where it happened,” Stegelmann said. “I don’t think people will walk across the parking lot without thinking what took place.”
And Goshen College has mourned the loss of Professor James Miller, who was killed in his driveway Oct. 9, 2011, and now the loss of a student, Millicent Morros.
“There’s no doubt the two events being like this have made an impact on our students,” Brenneman said. “The feelings of the one are brought to the surface by the other. The language of love, light and life was talked about when Miller was killed. There was this connection (during the service) in the expression of hope in spite of darkness, love instead of hate and light instead of death.”