PROVIDENCE — Only a week before she was killed, 24-year-old Miya Brophy-Baermann was at a tattoo shop on Federal Hill getting flowers inked onto her back. They were black and gray, but each blossom represented a person in her family based on their birth month.
Daisies and sweet peas for her mom, Michelle.
Marigolds and cosmos for her father, Bryan.
Carnations and snowdrops for her brother, Belamy.
And larkspurs and a water lily for herself.
They would have gone nicely with the rest of her collection — the Chicago Cubs “cubby” for her paternal grandfather who passed years ago, the Harry Potter symbols on her sleeve for the times she, her brother, and their mom would read the series.
She had already gone for two sessions, and had just one more to go. But she never made it back to the shop.
“I never really liked tattoos before. But it was her thing. And it was a conversation starter. And now, all I want is to see those tattoos and her smiling face again,” Michelle Brophy-Baermann told a Globe reporter Tuesday. “She was all that’s good in the world. And she’s gone and I don’t understand why anyone would want to take her.”
She added, through her tears: “I can’t believe that a person that cared so much about others, wanted to help others and lift up their voices, could be taken.”
Miya Brophy-Baermann was standing on Olney Street in Providence in the early morning hours on Sunday, talking to a friend when a car sped up and suddenly several shots were fired, hitting Brophy-Baermann. She was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Providence police have said little about the incident and the investigation itself, and no one has been arrested.
Her death marks the city’s 13th homicide this year.
Brophy-Baermann had lived in Wisconsin until she was about 9, when she and her family moved to Providence. She graduated from Classical High School in 2015.
“She always had a smile on her face,” said Angela Rose Barekman, who also attended Classical. “She was one of the most genuine souls to walk this earth. To know her was to love her.”
Ashley Soto, another Classical graduate, told the Globe that she and Brophy-Baermann were in a production of Snow White together when they attended Nathanael Greene Middle School. They’ve stayed in touch through social media.
“Very few people I went to school with support me to this day. But she has always supported me and my singing career,” said Soto.
Her friends and family remember her as a hard worker. Her mother recalled when she was 15 years old, she walked into a local Rite Aid and attempted to apply for a job. When they found out how old she really was, they told her to return when she was of age. She did, and got the job.
On behalf of the entire @ClassicalHSPVD community we offer prayers and condolences to the family of Miya Brophy-Baermann. Miya was a member of the Classical class of 2015; she was great, kind and compassionate to all.. heartbreaking @pvdschools pic.twitter.com/6oGwPjdLEp— Scott Barr (@principalbarr) August 2, 2021
After graduating from Classical, Brophy-Baermann earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Rhode Island, graduating magna cum laude in 2019. This year, she earned her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Northeastern University in Boston. Prior to graduating, she worked as a graduate student clinician at the Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital in Braintree, Mass., and started working as a speech language pathologist clinical fellow at Reliant Rehabilitation in North Providence in July.
“She found what she wanted to do for forever. We were the happiest when she accepted this job. She was going to stay at home with us for another year [in Warwick] until she was established,” said Michelle Brophy-Baermann. “She loved caring for people, and really would take the time to spend with them.”
And throughout all of it, she was a relentless social justice advocate.
“She felt committed to fighting for the underdog. She never liked seeing people treated unfairly for any reason. She understood, more than anyone, that we all come from different places and she treated everyone with the utmost respect — from the person on the lowest rung of the ladder to the highest,” said her father, Bryan Brophy-Baermann.
When the pandemic hit, Bryan Brophy-Baermann said, it was a time where they were able to spend even more time with their daughter. She helped them, and emotionally supported him when he was laid off for nearly 13 months.
And now, reminders of Miya are scattered about the house. Her beloved cat, Kali. The painted portrait of Kali that her parents got for her birthday recently. Bowls of Tootsie Rolls.
“I can’t bear the thought of me not being able to be with her anymore,” Michelle Brophy-Baermann said. “She was my world. She was my daughter. She was my Miya.”