“The way you get there is understanding that you don’t need to be perfect. It’s not even something to strive for.” Karen and Dennis Richardson of White River Jct., Vt. encouraged their daughter Brenna, a former Castleton State College nursing student, to write a journal and this quote was the only thing she wrote.
Brenna died in her Castleton apartment on Aug. 3, 2007 due to health complications.
A hard worker, friends and family said Brenna always fought for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.
Brenna worked both at an elderly home and most recently for the Rutland County Humane Society.
“She was always for the underdog,” her mother said in a recent interview. “When she worked with the elderly she always thought, ‘that could be my grandparent.'”
She always felt that life needed support, and according to her mother hated judgment.
Her mother told the passionate story of how Brenna left Hartford High School with plans to go into the Air Force, but realized that nursing could be an even better way to help people.
She was enrolled in the nursing program at Castleton State for several semesters until her recent illness forced her to take a leave of absence, and she wasn’t accepted back into the nursing program.
But she was never one to be down long.
“She was like one of those Weeble dolls, she would always pop right back up,” her mother said.
A week or so before her death, Brenna and her parents traveled to Maine to visit family, and enjoyed time on the beach.
“Brenna loved the ocean, and to swim,” her father stated.
It was in Maine that she proved that she could again pop back up. She made a new plan for her future. If nursing wasn’t going to work, she was going move to Maine and take on Veterinarian school.
Gretchen Goodman, the executive director for the Rutland County Humane Society, worked frequently with Brenna, who served as the shelter assistant since August of 2004.
Goodman spoke of what an impact Brenna had on the Humane Society.
“You always knew which animals she cleaned, because they always had extra blankets and toys,” Goodman said.
Goodman spoke of how difficult the job was both physically and mentally.
“She could balance the emotions better than anyone, the happy times and the sad times,” Goodman said.
Even after Brenna had to take a leave of absence from her job at the Humane society, she would still visit frequently.
After her death, the Humane Society received donations in Brenna’s honor, and in the spring, will be opening a new nursery for mother cats and kittens named “Brenna’s Room.”
Brenna had many other joys in life as well. Her father races for the Sports Car Club of America in the Formula V series, and would take her to many racing events.
Her passion for racing started just after high school when her parents took her to the Grand Prix of Montreal. She had always wanted to go and what was once a romantic getaway for her parents became an annual family event.
Her parents spoke of how excited she was to walk to streets of Montreal at night with her mother trying to find famous Formula One drivers, and how she once stood in the rain for hours to meet one of the greatest.
In many ways she was like many young women. She loved shopping, and only at the very best, “expensive” stores, her father said.
Her mother described her as a “paradox.” When they were at the races she would get up hours early to look her best; however, had no problem with getting dirty at the track.
Brenna’s father spoke of how the two of them decided to get matching tattoos of Celtic Crosses not long before her death. She was never able to get hers, but Dennis followed through and last week got his.
When talking about dealing with the worst fear a parent could have, Dennis said, “Not just a loss of a daughter, a beautiful soul, but loss of a friend.”
“We were parents to an angel,” her mother added.
The last weekend she spent with her parents was in Maine at Cousin’s Island in Yarmouth. Her father explained how happy she was there and said it was ‘her idea of heaven.’
Brenna was buried on Cousin’s Island.