Mary Karen Read

Age: 19

Class: Freshman

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies

Hometown: Annandale, VA (born in Seoul, South Korea)

High School: Annandale (Annandale, VA) - Class of 2006

Died along with Prof. Couture-Nowak and 10 other students in French class.


Audio/Video Remembrances


Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues

From the family of Mary Read  (as reported under her Washington Post Profile):

Mary Karen Read is a vibrant, beautiful daughter, sister, classmate and friend who found her highest calling in helping others and spreading joy and happiness. Her special gift in this life was her ability to spread happiness and cheer with an infectious smile, an unforgettable laugh and a keen sense of what others around her might need. Everybody loved Mary, and we still do, with all our breaking hearts and full souls.

Mary just turned 19 in January and was looking forward to the end of her freshman year at Tech and returning home to Annandale. Mary had big hopes and dreams, fueled by her abundant faith, her desire to work with children and her wide circle of friends and classmates from Annandale High School.

She was especially close to those she joined on the field as part of the Annandale Atoms marching band and color guard. They did everything together, and you seldom saw one of them without the others in tow. They were, and are, a close-knit group who have been devastated by this loss; it is the strength of their love and commitment to each other that is carrying them through and sustaining them.

Mary has three younger brothers and two little sisters, all of whom thinks she hung the moon. With them, Mary demonstrated the love and caring that drew her to Virginia Tech to study elementary education. When Mary left her dorm room on Monday morning for French class, it was as part of this larger desire to serve and help others, especially children.

We feel blessed that just this past weekend, Mary was home to visit and was able to spend time with her grandparents, brothers and sister, friends, and us. Mary learned how to make her favorite dessert, pumpkin pie, and her joy of life simply radiated from her, as it always has. Our faith, and hers, assures us that Mary is with her risen savior and our loved ones who have gone before us.

We who are left to wait for our future reunion want to express our profound gratitude to all those, too numerous to mention, who have helped us in large ways and small in this hour of grief. At the same time, we wait in joyful hope for that day when we reunite, beyond tears or sorrow.

Mary's memory on this earth lives with a far-flung network of family, friends and classmates from her short but vibrant and full life. To perpetuate her memory in a special and ongoing way, we intend to establish a scholarship in her name, with details to be determined later.

We again thank all those who have supported us materially with their love and prayers, and we ask all of you to continue to remember and raise up in your own way all the victims and families of this incomprehensible tragedy.

Thank you.

Submit your personal remembrance for posting here (please include your name and relationship).

Newspaper Remembrance Stories

Aspiring Elementary School Teacher Served Food, Smiles
(Roanoke Times Profile)

At Annandale High School, Mary Read brought cupcakes to her friends in the school band and helped bake a strawberry cake each time someone in her French class celebrated a birthday.

At the Virginia Tech dining hall where she worked this semester, Read served pizza, pasta and smiles.

“She was just one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever known,” said Malisa Savanh, a friend since middle school. “There’s no bad anybody could ever say about her.”

Read, who was killed Monday at Norris Hall, was born in South Korea into an Air Force family and lived in Texas and California before settling in Annandale, Va., said her aunt Karen Kuppinger, of Rochester, N.Y.

An aspiring elementary school teacher, she was “a young person who had a lot of promise and was just starting to figure out what direction she was going to go,” uncle Edward Kuppinger said.

At Virginia Tech, she joined Campus Crusade for Christ and a Bible study group.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” fellow Tech freshman Blair Bullock wrote in an e-mail. “Mary is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She was such a caring and happy person, always laughing and smiling. She never spoke a bad word about anyone; she was a sister and friend to everyone.”

Read, the oldest of five children, loved the beach and delighted in wearing flip-flops as often as possible — “even when it was cold out,” said Savanh, a freshman at the College of William and Mary.

She played lacrosse and the clarinet, loved football and spun flags in her high school color guard.

Since February, she had worked at the West End Market, a campus dining facility where she was a model employee, operations manager Jamie Parnell said.

“She was very friendly and sweet,” Parnell said. “There was nothing more we could have asked her to do.”

Bullock recalled Read’s reaction last week after their Bible-study group watched a video about heaven.

“Mary was talking about how great it’s going to be when we get there, and how excited she was,” she wrote. “We are comforted in knowing that we will see her again one day.”

— Jim Reedy (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)

New York Times Profile:

Mary Karen Read, a 19-year-old freshman majoring in interdisciplinary studies, was best known for her smile. It even earned her an award.

"She actually won 'Best Smile' for the band superlatives during senior year," said Jessica Berrios, 19, a former classmate at Annandale High School in Virginia. "She always had a smile on her face, and she was always giggling, especially with her best friends. Even during times of stress, she always had a smile on her face."

Ms. Berrios said Ms. Read played clarinet and wanted to become an elementary school teacher. She also loved baking. "I loved it when she baked cookies because they were heavenly," Ms. Berrios said.

Amy Mathis, another former classmate, called Ms. Read "a warm and friendly person," who stood out in a class of about 500 students.

"She was always inclusive. She was a beautiful person that way," said Ms. Mathis, a freshman at the University of Richmond. "She never really meant to exclude anyone. She was always that girl you could talk to even if you hadn't talked to her in a while. That was one of her best traits and it separated her from a lot of people. She never really put up a wall."

Ms. Mathis said the news of Ms. Read's death shook everyone in her town.

"When it happened to her it seemed to happen to the whole Annandale community," she said. "She was, I think, one of the more pivotal people in our class, a strong representative of who we were."

A poem was posted at the top of a Facebook page created in her memory -- and of course, it revolved around her award-winning smile.

"Mary was a beautiful person/Her smile made the sun's beauty envious She was a great friend/a gorgeous angel/and she is in heaven/watching over us."

A devoted Christian and a friend to all
USAToday Profile

The phrase "winning personality" seemed made for Mary Read.

The 19-year-old freshman got along with people of all ages, from her four younger siblings to the faculty at Annandale (Va.) High School in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where she graduated last year.

"She had a hospitable spirit," said Georgi Barker, the mother of a friend. "She made people feel welcome."

Read was born in South Korea, where her father was in the military, and lived in Texas and California before coming to Virginia. She took advanced high school courses and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was the school band president and clarinet section leader, played lacrosse and was a member of the school's homecoming court as a senior.

In college, she became active in Bible study and Campus Crusade for Christ. She appeared headed toward a career in elementary education. "She was caring, kind, compassionate and loving — everything you could ask for in a friend," said Mary Draper, a high school classmate.

Washington Post Profile:

Mary Read was a "fun-loving 19-year-old" who graduated from Fairfax's Annandale High School last spring, said her aunt, Karen Kuppinger of Rochester, N.Y.

Read had lived in Fairfax County since 1991, said Kuppinger, 42. Her dad, Peter, and stepmother, Cathy, are both retired military personnel who live in an older subdivision off Wakefield Chapel Road. Her mother, Yon Son, is a native Korean and U.S. citizen who lives in New Jersey, Kuppinger said.

At Annandale High, Read played lacrosse and clarinet in the concert band. She also performed in the color guard, her aunt said. She was an "excellent student" who had not decided on a major, Kuppinger said.

"Here's a story about what a sweet, family-oriented girl she is," Kuppinger said. "The last time I saw her -- a year ago Thanksgiving here at my house -- she kept disappearing while she was here. I finally said, 'Mary, what are you up to? Are you reading a good book or something?' She was knitting a beautiful scarf -- a multicolored fluffy scarf like the girls wear -- for her grandmother for Christmas. My mother still wears it. She did very thoughtful things like that always and was very close to her mother and father and brothers."

A large sign positioned outside the family's driveway yesterday read: "Mr. and Mrs. Read have gone to Blacksburg. They have small children at home and ask that they not be disturbed today."

Amir Abuelhawa, a former classmate of Mary's, said he recently spent the evening with her when she was back in Annandale during Tech's spring break. They spent the evening catching up and made plans to reconnect when she came home in a few months.

"We had the entire summer," Abuelhawa said. "Now I can't see her anymore."

-- Annie Gowen, The Washington Post

Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:

Mary Karen Read was just getting her bearings at Virginia Tech, making friends and finding her niche on the campus. She worked in a dining hall, joined the concert band, and was considering a sorority. She was a 19-year-old freshman who did not get a chance to declare a major.

Ms. Read’s profile on MySpace paints a picture of a popular teenager from Annandale, Va., who was considering a career as a teacher. She played lacrosse in high school and loved chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream and watching Dawson’s Creek reruns on television. Several memorial sites were created in her honor on Facebook, where many friends remembered a kind, talented, and caring young woman.

“Everyone mattered to you,” one person wrote. “Your face would just light up and you’d smile at everyone.”

At Virginia Tech she had joined Campus Crusade for Christ and a Bible-study group. Will Peterson, director of the University Campus Band, knew Ms. Read from her first days there. She played the clarinet and was diligent about attending Monday-night rehearsals.

“I’m just glad that she had that involvement in music, because I know she loved it in high school,” Mr. Peterson says.

Born in South Korea to an Air Force family, she lived in Texas and California before ending up in northern Virginia, where she flourished as a student. According to the Annandale High School newspaper, Ms. Read was a member of the National Honor Society and the French Honor Society. In the newspaper’s report of her death, John Ponton, the school’s principal, remembered Ms. Read for her “ability to befriend everyone she met.”

—Erin Strout

Family, Friends Honor Va. Tech Freshman

The Washington Post (Tuesday, April 24, 2007)

Peter Read, the father of Virginia Tech shooting victim Mary Karen Read, said he never intended to give a eulogy at her funeral Mass today at St. Mary's of Sorrows Church in Fairfax.

But the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel climbed to the lectern at the end of the hour-long service to read from one of his daughter's notebooks. He had found it only this morning. It was a little red, bound diary where the former Annandale High School student had written some of her favorite quotes on forgiveness.

" When a deep injury is done us, we will never recover until we forgive," he read from the notebook, an entry his daughter had penned in February.

"That was Mary's message," Peter Read said. "I just wanted to share it with all of you."

More than 900 of Mary Read's former classmates, friends and family gathered to honor the 19-year-old Virginia Tech freshman yesterday. Read, who graduated from Annandale last spring and aspired to be an elementary school teacher, was shot to death on the morning of April 16 as she sat in French class.

Mourners lined the streets near her home holding white balloons and waving signs with her name encircled in hearts as the hearse carrying her body passed by.

She had been an enthusiastic clarinetist for the Annandale band, so members of the Marching Atoms -- dressed in their concert tuxes and black dresses -- serenaded her at the burial service at Pleasant Valley Memorial Park.

They played "Amazing Grace" and then the school fight song, the one everybody knew by heart.

By Annie Gowen

Last Memories, Lasting Tributes
Final Weekend Together Brings Comfort to Family

The Washington Post (Wednesday, April 25, 2007; B01)

In a terrible week when blessings were few, Peter Read considers himself fortunate that his daughter Mary came home to Annandale to spend time with her grandparents the weekend before the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Everything about the weekend was just so ordinary, he recalled. Read played on her laptop, instant-messaging her friends. She and her dad prepared her first-ever income tax form. And Saturday night, she asked her stepmother, Cathy, to teach her how to make her favorite dessert, pumpkin pie.

Halfway through, her grandmother snapped a picture of Mary Read, a big smile on her face as always, waving a rolling pin above her first successful pie crust. Look closely and you can see a little smudge of flour on her upper lip.

She took a piece of pie back to school that Sunday night. Her family found the empty container when they packed up her tidy dorm room days later. The 19-year-old was among those fatally shot.

"What college freshman stays home with her family on Saturday night -- baking pies?" her grandmother, Catherine Read, of Macedon, N.Y., marveled.

But that was Mary, friends and family say. She could be introverted, but not so much that her sunny personality was shaded at Annandale High School, from which she graduated last spring. She was a member of the homecoming court. She played lacrosse, and clarinet in the marching band. Her band mates voted her "Best Smile."

Mary, killed in her French class, was buried yesterday after a Catholic Mass at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax Station. More than 900 of her friends, family members and former teachers came to mourn her, some lining the route to the cemetery with hands over their hearts, clutching white balloons. At graveside, the Annandale Marching Atoms serenaded her with "Amazing Grace" and a final playing of the school's fight song.

At the service, her father, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, told the mourners that he never intended to give a eulogy, hoping it would be more a celebration of her life. But he ended up pulling out a little red notebook taken from Mary's room he'd found only yesterday morning. In it were Mary's handwritten notes on forgiveness, dated Feb. 4.

"When a deep injury is done us, we will never recover until we forgive," he read from the notebook. "That was Mary's message," he said. "I just wanted to share it with all of you."

Read was born in South Korea in January 1988, the daughter of an American serviceman and his Korean bride, Yon Son Zhang, now of Palisades Park, N.J. She spent much of her short lifetime bridging the gap between the two cultures, her father said, as she would later bridge the divide between her divorced parents.

On her MySpace profile, when asked to describe herself, she wrote, "Uhm . . . a girl who's half-Asian and half-white."

She loved Korean food and was slowly learning how to read and write the language, her father said. And it was going to take a while. "That was something else she expected to have time to do," he said.

She lived the typical peripatetic existence of military offspring -- in Texas, California and back to South Korea -- until 1997, when her parents separated and she went to live with her mother in Clarksburg, Tenn. After Peter Read remarried, to Navy Cmdr. Cathy Read, Mary and her brother Stephen, now 11, moved to Annandale in 2001.

At Annandale High School, she got more B's than A's, but she was diligent and a member of the National and French honor societies, her father said.

She loved kids and wanted to be a teacher. She had a lot of practice with them. In addition to her brother, she had four half-siblings ages 10 months to 11 years and had "honchoed" the Easter Egg hunt for some of them just two weeks before.

"She was the teenage girl every parent would love to have," Peter Read said. "I never had to worry with Mary -- she always made the right choices, had the right friends."

She was an enthusiastic member of the marching band, concert band and the school's flag-waving "winter guard," said her band teacher, Jack Elgin. She was a section leader for the clarinets, but her personality made it hard to keep order among the unruly teens in the band, he recalled.

"She was so nice she couldn't bring herself to yell at anybody," Elgin remembered. "We used to get on her for that. She'd giggle them into doing something . . . like 'C'mon guys,' real sweet and soft-spoken."

Once at Tech, she chose a major -- interdisciplinary studies -- with hopes of later studying for a master's degree in education. Like many freshmen, though, she was sometimes sad and lonely and struggled to fit in on Tech's big campus.

"She was still getting used to it. It's big, a huge campus, so it's hard for everybody," said Tim Johnson, 19, a friend from Annandale who also attends Tech. They'd talk about it sometimes, when Johnson walked her back to her dorm after class.

In recent weeks, though, she'd begun settling down, signing up to be a Bible study leader and talking about joining a sorority, friends said.

Johnson was just one of dozens of Read's former and current classmates who have streamed by the family's tan colonial on a cul-de-sac in Annandale since last week to grieve and comfort each other. A tree in the front yard has become a makeshift shrine, with Read's picture and candles and flowers. Friends write messages on tags -- "We Love You Mary" and tie them to the branches.

Sometimes when it's quiet and no one else is around, her father stands by the tree. He says he can only bear to read a few of the little tags at a time.

He'd like for her to see it. He says he asked the funeral home if they would drive the hearse by the house on the way to the cemetery, so Mary could come home one more time.

By Annie Gowen

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

Mary Karen Read, a freshman majoring in interdisciplinary studies, was born on Jan. 30, 1988, at the U.S. Army hospital in Seoul, South Korea. She lived in Texas, California, Seoul, Tennessee, and Virginia Beach before settling into her new hometown of Annandale, Va., for middle and high school.

Mary was contemplating a career in elementary education. On campus, she was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ and had applied to be a Bible study leader. She was to have been notified of her acceptance on Monday, April 16. Her deep faith was evident in every aspect of her life.

Mary was also an avid clarinet player who was a member of the concert band.

Although she initially found the size of the Virginia Tech campus and student body to be daunting, Mary was working hard to assimilate, spending time on campus with friends from her hometown, her roommate, and a growing number of new acquaintances. Mary had recently started a job serving pizza and pasta in one of the campus dining halls and was considering joining a sorority.

Prior to Virginia Tech, Mary was enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program at Annandale High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society, the French Honor Society, and the Tri-M Band Honor Society. She was president of the Annandale High School band, where she was a clarinet section leader. She was also a member of Annandale’s Homecoming Court, played lacrosse for two years, and participated in winter color guard for four years.

Mary loved spending time with her family and friends, especially on trips to the mountains, the beach, and the lake and was happiest when helping others, especially children. She was renowned for her beautiful, constant smile and sweet personality. More than anything, she relished her role of big sister to siblings Stephen (11), Patrick (4), Hannah (4), Brendan (2), and Colleen (10 months).

Mary is sadly missed by her father and stepmother, Pete and Cathy Read of Annandale; mother and stepfather, Yon Son Yi Zhang and Dr. Zhang of Palisades Park, N.J.; and all of her aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Memorial Scholarship

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Mary Karen Read Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in her memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.