Hull turns out to say goodbye to 15-year-old Emma Ryan
HULL — Emma B. Ryan loved buffalo chicken wings.
She loved her parents and her sisters, Caitlin and Fallon.
She loved soccer and Hull High School. Hull was her home.
On Saturday, the 15-year-old died with little warning, of natural causes.
Her death — so sudden, so unexpected — shattered Hull. That’s the way it is in a small town like this, where the ebb and flow of life is a shared community experience.
The town grieved together all week. The tower at Fort Revere, a historic site, was lit in her school’s colors, blue and yellow. The day Emma died, Hull High School, where she was a sophomore, opened its doors.
As word of the loss spread, hundreds of kids showed up at the school to talk. Emma’s desk was set apart this week, covered in flowers and the scrawled farewells of her classmates. Notes filled several large pieces of paper that were stuck to her locker. They were given to her family.
“It meant so much to feel so supported,” said Shawna Greenway, 18, a senior and a soccer captain. “School is like a safe bubble. It’s a good place to meet where we could just be sad.”
Thursday, the town came to bury Emma, a teen who loved to share her joy with anyone who happened to be near.
She loved to share kind words, inside jokes, good meals.
“Her favorite thing to say was, ‘My treat,’ ” her father, Derek Ryan, said at his daughter’s funeral.
Emma’s parents, Derek and Kerrie Burke Ryan, always told Emma to put her baby-sitting money in the bank. She preferred to spend it on others. When her grandmother would give her $50 for making the honor roll, she would take loved ones out to eat.
That was just Emma’s way. To her father’s advice, often offered after games, the teenager would answer with a smile: “I promise I’ll do better tomorrow, Dad.”
As the father spoke, sobs were muffled. It was standing room only inside St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in St. Ann Church. An overflow room filled with even more friends, family, teachers, town officials, classmates, and teammates.
It had been like that all week. Sunday, about 400 people gathered on L Street for a vigil honoring Emma.
“It’s amazing how many people came out and stood in the rain,” said Jim Richman, 50, whose daughters played sports with Emma. “It’s something I’ve never seen. It shows you the kind of caring community this is. When one of us hurts, we all hurt.”
She was the girl who spent the summer running every day with her grandfather and practicing her soccer skills. Her goal was to play for the varsity team with her big sister. She made it.
“She was the most determined young girl I’ve ever met,” said Victoria Fuda, 16, a junior at Hull High and one of the soccer team’s captains. “She was so genuine, and she had this infectious smile and infectious laugh.”
The week before Emma died, Fuda remembers Emma telling her to let the team know how close Caitlin was to scoring her 100th point. Caitlin almost didn’t play Monday, two days after her sister’s death.
But then she decided she would play. She had to play. Caitlin scored her 100th point wearing Emma’s jersey: number 20.
She huddled with her team and walked off the field. They won 7-0.
“It was one of those moments that we all felt connected to each other,” said Stew Bell, the girl’s soccer coach.
At Emma’s wake Wednesday, the team wore black wristbands with the number 20.
Thousands formed lines down Emerald Street in Hingham, waiting for hours to say goodbye.
Friends of Emma’s sat on the grass outside Pyne Keohane Funeral Home late into the night.
“So many people loved her,” said Jess Delaney, 16, a Hull High junior. “You didn’t have to know her to have her impact your life in a positive way.”
It was the first time many of the teens confronted a loss of this magnitude.
Lilly Whelan, 15, a sophomore at Hull High, shared stories of her best friend. How Emma loved the film “Titanic” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Occasionally, she wrote in her journal as “Anne.”
“Dear Kitty,” she’d begin. They laughed at how quiet she could be sometimes when she greeted her friend Marcus Kurciviez, 16, with a smile and a shy wave.
They’re aware the loss hasn’t sunk in. The suddenness is confusing.
It still felt like it hadn’t happened, like Emma will text one of them at any moment.
They were supposed to visit Japan together one day.
Instead, a few of Emma’s closest friends escorted her casket down the aisle as pallbearers.
“I’ll always remember our last moment together,” Emma’s father said.
“You bought me a pizza. I told you that I loved you, and you told me you loved me more.”