Campus Grieves With Friends and Family of Pam Arbogast: the mourning of loss and the celebration of life

Pam Arbogast was a long presence on campus, having worked 15 years with the custodial services.

Pam Arbogast was a long presence on campus, having worked 15 years with the custodial services.

Walking into Lehman Auditorium, guests were met with waves of flowers and grief for Pam Arbogast’s memorial service. The lead custodian of University Commons had worked within Eastern Mennonite University’s custodial services for the past fifteen years. Friends and family gathered on Wednesday evening to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the “well known and popular” Arbogast.

The service started with a slide show of pictures from Arbogast’s childhood, family life, as well as pictures taken with her “EMU Family,” as she called it. Music played in the background to set the mood of the service, songs that were chosen by Arbogast herself, and signified the loss and next step in God’s plan. After an opening hymn, Eldon Kurtz, the director of Physical Plant, read the obituary. Through its reading, the obituary cast a rough sketch of a woman with loving family members and a rich life. She leaves behind a husband, Jerry Christopher Arbogast, as well as two sons, Christopher Bryce Arbogast and Collin Bradley Arbogast, all of Bridgewater.

After another hymn and scripture reading of John 3:1-16, Brian Martin Burkholder, EMU Campus Pastor delivered the homily. In his address, he discussed the process of grieving and releasing that was necessary to move on. However, Burkholder also acknowledged the questions that many may face: “What kind of love leads to death?” Even while keeping this query in mind and living within the memories of her last days, the service strove to be a celebration of her life.

A big part of Arbogast’s liveliness was her relationships with the other custodial staff. These friendships were a huge part of her legacy at EMU. “[The other custodians] would make dinners for her for after her treatments, or find others to [provide food for the family]. They took care of her,” Sophomore Stephanie Toth remembers. Toth worked for custodial services over the summer, and while she was not on Arbogast’s cleaning team, they would have lunch as a group. “Pam was funny and warm-hearted. She had cancer then, but that wasn’t the center of her life.” Arbogast provided humorous stories about her life, and made everyone around her feel comfortable.

After a struggle of three years and monthly trips out to Chicago for treatment, Arbogast passed away last Saturday, the 30 , at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. Instead of flowers, memorial donations should be sent to Bridgewater Fire Department.

-Kate Swartz, Contributing Writer; photo provided by EMU Marketing

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