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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Memorial honors life of Rissa Amen-Reif

A bright flame lost too soon

Rissa Amen-Reif was a bright flame who was lost far too soon, her sorority sisters said through the tears at her remembrance service Nov. 19.

By Amanda Dyslin, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 11/20/2007]

Photo by John Cross
Rissas father
Rissa Amen-Reif's father attended the MSU memorial service for her Monday night.

Out of everyone who spoke at Rissa Amen-Reif’s memorial service Monday night, it was her sorority sisters who made it known what a truly bright spirit they had lost.

There were stories about Rissa’s “pink fashionable nail polish” and her stiletto shoes that strutted across a room. There were memories shared about her giant Ugg boots and her wild, crazy hair.

She wouldn’t say “hi” or “hello” when she called someone. She’d say, “What’re you doing?” which would then lead to a 45-minute conversation.

As many of her friends and even her professors described her, Rissa’s presence illuminated a room.

“Her electric personality helped make every event more exciting,” said Evan Hedwall, Interfraternal Council president.

Rissa, 22, of Eden Prairie was killed early Sunday when a car struck her on Third Avenue in Mankato early Sunday. Corinne L. Overstake, 21, of Loretto was injured in the crash.

Thoughts and prayers were expressed at the memorial for Overstake’s speedy recovery. But most of the focus was on the sister the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority felt had been stolen from it too quickly.

Mostly it was talk of Rissa’s vibrant personality that brought many of the hundreds of friends, loved ones and classmates in the Minnesota State University Ballroom to tears. The strong ties of MSU’s Greek community could be seen and heard among its various members as they cried in each other’s arms and frequently snapped their fingers to show solidarity during the memorial.

Photo by John Cross
Gamma Phi Beta
Gamma Phi Beta Sorority members placed pink carnations on a table at the end of the memorial service and sang the Gamma Phi song.

“We are not a typical Greek community, we are a Greek family,” Hedwall said.

Rissa was a sister and a great friend to many, her sisters said. She was even a mother and a daughter to members of her Gamma Phi Beta sorority, sort of an inside joke they shared at the memorial. Rissa called her daughter “dot,” which was “totally something Rissa would do,” her daughter said.

“Rissa, I know you’re listening,” her sorority mother said through tears. “And when I get up there, I’m ready for a mom/dot date, any time.”

Rissa’s passion for life was matched by her strength, her advisor said. A corrections major, she recently had wrapped up an internship with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, where she worked with registering and monitoring sex offenders. Her friends said she was passionate about educating people about social justice.

Rissa also was passionate about Greek Life on campus. She was vice president of programming for the Panhellenic Council and always tried to make everyone have a good time.

“She was Gamma Phi true and true, and we’ll never forget her,” said Beth Larson.

Gamma Phi sisters placed pink carnations on a table and gathered on stage at the end of the service. Together they sang the Gamma Phi song.

“Remember Gamma Phi Beta. Remember when you’re away. Remember the friends you’ve made here. And don’t forget to come back some day.

“Remember the pink carnation, the crescent in the sky. And keep truly ever with you, the memories of Gamma Phi.”

Sammie Eckerson, Greek Life advisor, closed the ceremony by reminding the crowd how hilarious and bright Rissa was, and how she would want to be remembered.

“Rather than mourn the loss of a flame, let us celebrate how brightly it burned.”

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