JAMES Gracie, beloved daughter of Chris Bobel, James Lundy and Thomas Hartl, all of Arlington, Massachusetts, died on October 20, 2010 of injuries sustained in a car accident in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah three days earlier. She had just turned 17 years old. Gracie Christine James was born on September 29, 1993 in Whitewater, Wisconsin where she lived until moving to New Orleans just before her fourth birthday. After her father and mother separated in 1998, Chris and Gracie moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where they lived until relocating to Arlington, Massachusetts with Thomas in 2001. Gracie’s father, James, moved to Arlington in 2006. Until this fall, Gracie had been a student at Arlington High School. In mid-August, Gracie began attending a boarding school in Hurricane, Utah. On the morning of Sunday, October 20th, Gracie and fifteen other girls and school staff were enroute to a full day excursion in Arches Natural Park when the staff driver of their SUV lost control and the vehicle rolled over outside of Sevier, Utah. Found in a coma by rescue personnel, Gracie never regained consciousness. She died quietly on the evening of October 20 in the trauma unit of Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, in the loving embrace of her three parents. At her parents’ request, on the evening of her death, individuals and small groups across the country and as far as Germany lit candles, listened to and sang Gracie’s favorite music and observed shared moments of reflective silence. Gracie was an unusually creative, intuitive, affectionate and sensitive young woman with a shy smile, beautiful eyes and a deep, feeling soul. She was an accomplished figure skater, an avid reader and a budding artist who created evocative and vibrant abstract works in soft pastels. But her main passion was writing. A brilliant and imaginative writer of both short and longer fiction and poetry, she aspired to a career in professional writing. Gracie’s gifts for caring, compassion and emotional connection touched everyone she met as shown by the outpouring of grief and support expressed by her peers at both her current and former schools. The day after her death, grieving students at Arlington High School wore green, symbolizing peace and honoring her memory. In addition to her heartbroken parents, Gracie is survived by her sister, Zoe Habel, age 7, whom she adored unabashedly, her “little” brother, age 16, Craig Hartl, with whom she shared a deep heart connection, her maternal grandmother, Sally Bobel, her paternal grandfather, Heinrich Hartl, numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and her steadfast boyfriend, Sam Flavin. Gracie was predeceased by her paternal grandmother, Hedda Hartl, and her maternal grandfather, John Bobel. A memorial service and celabration of Gracie’s life will be held at the church where Gracie was both dedicated and later completed the “Coming of Age” program, First Parish Church, Unitarian Universalist (Harvard Square, Cambridge) on Sunday, November 7th at 5:00 P.M. At the reception that follows, all are invited to contribute words, images and other remembrances on a Memory Wall. The family invites donations in lieu of flowers to the newly established “Gracie James Foundation” which will focus on closing the gaps in systems of support for local teens. Donations can be sent to 76 Paul Revere Road, Arlington, MA 02476.
Published in Boston Herald on Oct. 27, 2010.