SCITUATE, Mass. — Family and friends gathered Saturday morning for a funeral to commemorate the life of Michele Dufault ’11, a Saybrook College senior who died in a machine shop accident last Wednesday.
Over 400 people filled St. Mary of the Nativity Church Saturday in her hometown to honor what Dufault’s mother Diane Quintin Dufault called a “short but well-lived” life. During Dufault’s four years at Yale, friends said she made an impact on many around her, including friends she met in Saybrook, the Yale Precision Marching Band and the physics and astronomy departments.
In his sermon, the University’s Roman Catholic chaplain Robert Beloin acknowledged the tragedy of Dufault’s death while also encouraging listeners to learn from her curiosity, passion and kindness. He asked those in attendance to “mourn” rather than “grieve” Dufault’s death by following her example and pursuing their own ideals with enthusiasm, not just dwelling on sadness.
“Today is bittersweet,” Beloin said after extending condolences on behalf of University administrators such as President Richard Levin and Chaplain Sharon Kugler.
Quintin Dufault echoed Beloin’s message in her concluding speech, which emphasized her daughter’s insightful, joyous approach to life. She encouraged those assembled not to dwell on the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s death but rather learn from the way she took advantage of every day.
Even as a student in elementary school, Dufault exhibited a love of learning, her mother said. When each student in her class was asked to choose a vocabulary word to memorize, Dufault picked the word “bioluminescence” — for which her mother said even the teacher had to pull out a dictionary. The word refers to the biochemical light emitted by living organisms, such as fireflies.
Beyond her academic achievements, Dufault had a gift for cultivating close relationships, her mother said. While Quintin Dufault said she had always had a strong relationship with her daughter, she discovered in the days following Dufault’s death that many others who had known her had also felt deeply and uniquely connected to her.
Shock and sadness fell over campus at the loss of a leader and friend: Dufault had served as a role model for many younger women involved in the sciences at Yale, her peers said, and she was a beloved member of the YPMB, serving as saxophone section leader her sophomore year.
Approximately 65 Yale undergraduates from all areas of Dufault’s life boarded buses sponsored by Saybrook College for the three-hour trip to Dufault’s hometown of Scituate, Mass., Saybrook Acting Master Edward Kamens ’74 GRD ’82 said in an email to the News.
Kamens and his wife, Yale College Dean Mary Miller, attended the service, and he said many Yale College graduates from the classes of 2009 and 2010 were also present. Students and faculty had previously gathered Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil in Saybrook’s Killingworth courtyard to honor Dufault.
The service ended just before 11:30 a.m., and all in attendance were invited by the family to a reception held immediately afterward.