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Sonya Raymakers' services set for today

Stunned mother recalls daughter's joys: Sonya Raymakers loved theater and music, dreamed of being a costume designer

Sonya Raymakers' stunned parents, Bonnie Packer and Bob Raymakers, were surrounded by family and friends in their south Palo Alto home Thursday, while planning their daughter's funeral service -- set for Friday, June 5, at 1 p.m. at Congregation Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St., Palo Alto, followed by a graveside service at 2:30 p.m. at Alta Mesa Memorial Park.

Amid the swirl of activity, Packer took a moment to speak on the telephone about her beloved daughter.

Raymakers was born at Stanford Hospital and attended PreSchool Family, Palo Verde Elementary School and JLS Middle School before reaching Gunn.

She was "the best of friends" with her older brother, Jeff Raymakers, 29, who lives in Seattle, Packer said.

Although Raymakers was small when her brother left home, he went to Stanford University and was able to spend time with his sister.

Following in his footsteps, Raymakers became engaged with Palo Alto Children's Theatre at an early age, participating in many productions.

"She had small parts. She was never like an 'actress actress,'" her mother said. "She just liked the theater."

"She wanted to be a costume designer that was her dream. She had a lot of things going for her, and she was so excited to be going to the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU this fall."

Raymakers had lined up summer jobs designing costumes for the late June and early July production of Mary Zimmerman's interpretation of "Metamorphoses" at the Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View. She also was just starting a job at Tea Time in downtown Palo Alto, her mother said.

Last summer she worked on costumes for Dragon Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's "Rough Crossing."

Sonya was a "self-driven" musician, playing piano and viola.

But her great passion was theater, and she found a home in Gunn's "Green Room" with mentors Jim Shelby and Jessie Hawkins, Packer said.

Packer is well-known in the community, having served on Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission. She has been affiliated with the YMCA, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation.

A funeral service has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Congregation Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St., Palo Alto, followed by a graveside service at 2:30 p.m. at Alta Mesa Memorial Park (opposite Gunn). The services will be conducted by Rabbi Ari Cartun and Unitarian Minister Amy Zucker Morgenstern.

Details of the services were printed in the online newsletter, the Gunn Connection:

The synagogue on Alma holds about 350 people.

Sonya's friends, especially those from the drama and stage tech communities, teachers and community friends are all invited to the service at 1 p.m. Please carpool because parking space is limited.

The graveside service at Alta Mesa Cemetery is open to anyone who would like to attend.

Following the service at Alta Mesa, students and teachers and other guests are invited back to Gunn for refreshments. The Little Theatre will be open for friends to write messages in Sonya's memory for her family.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I don't know what to say, and I usually have something to say.

I didn't know either of these kids myself, but their loss is a loss for us all. So young, so bright, so hopeful, so much to offer, all gone. What might they have offered the world had they lived out productive lives? How much joy and happiness might they have brought to others and to themselves? What contributions might they have made and what rewards might they have reaped? We will never know now, will we?

My heart aches, here I am a grown man in my office and I feel like I want to crawl under my desk and cry.

There are no reasons for that that would be at all acceptable, so I won't even bother asking for them. There are no actions that can be taken to bring these kids back, so there is nothing to do. All I can do is feel a vast emptiness, like something wonderful use to be right there, but it's gone now, just a hole left behind.

Like I said, I didn't even know these kids, I cannot imagine how it must be for those who knew and loved them. But I can feel the loss from here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2009 at 4:46 pm

JustMe,

I know what you mean. I, too, always have something to say, but I'm just sort of numb. It doesn't even begin to make sense from the outside. She seemed to have the future she wanted ahead of her. But . . .


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MP_Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 4, 2009 at 4:47 pm

JustMe, that was very well said. I feel the same. I didn't know them either but it brings tears to my eyes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2009 at 4:55 pm

JustMe, same feeling here. Thank you!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

All of this talk of personal feelings on a public site just fuels the fire.

Suicide has a strong biochemical basis (genetically determined, in all probability). Why do we continue to prop up this discussion, since it will only lead to more suicides?

The Weekly, if it is serious, will stop all this talk. Let the family have their privacy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Who is denying the family their privacy? We here have done nothing to indrude, we merely expressed our feelings. We asked nothing from them, we offered nothing to them other than our shared feelings. We have a right to express our feelings, don't we?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 4, 2009 at 5:51 pm

On another note, these services are being held during school time. Like before, will there be an opportunity for the kids to have a time of remembrance and celebration over the weekend?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sharing emotion
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Sharing our feelings does not add to suicides.
I think JustMe said what a lot of people are thinking and feeling.
I am thankful he shared it in such an honest, open, and safe way.
Isn't that what we want to model for our kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2009 at 5:56 pm

JustMe,

I suggest that the Weekly shut down this entire discussion. The desire to express sympathy in public only leads to a glorification of suicide. It is not healthy for kids.

If you want to express your feelings to the family, call them or send a sympathy card.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2009 at 6:26 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

One basic note--newspapers do not report many suicides because of, yes, the contagion issue The recent ones, unfortunately, took place in public. There was no way for them not to be public knowledge.

There was, damn it, no way for the kids at Gunn not to be affected.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2009 at 6:33 pm



I propose the PAonline restrict this thread, it is going back to the same dysfunctional themes, that is OK among adults but clearly kids are reading these threads.
Please close it down, the family has invited the public to the burial,
enough is enough, if you read the CDC on suicide contagion you will shut this down.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Sharon,

I read it. It refers to new coverage, you know. This is not news coverage.

And the CDC makes it clear that certain kinds of coverage do not lead to contagion suicide. To quote them:
----------------------------------------
CONCLUSION

In addition to recognizing the types of news coverage that can promote suicide contagion, the workshop participants strongly agreed that reporting of suicide can have several direct benefits. Specifically, community efforts to address this problem can be strengthened by news coverage that describes the help and support available in a community, explains how to identify persons at high risk for suicide, or presents information about risk factors for suicide. An ongoing dialogue between news media professionals and health and other public officials is the key to facilitating the reporting of this information.
---------------------------------------------------------------

This is the community discussing the situation. Fact is, kids were screened at Gunn, three were hospitalized--for all we know, there are some kids who are alive because of this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Not to be crass, but my understanding of the media not reporting much on suicides was related to the newer privacy laws enacted regarding suicide. Some years ago, when a friend died, I was able to get a copy of his cause of death from the medical examiner's office. More recently, I was pursuing a rumor about the suicide of an old friend, and the medical examiner's office couldn't give me info. I asked a friend who was a dep. district attorney about it and he said more recent laws prohibited info being released by certain agencies to the public, and therefore, it was reported less in the media as well.

Perhaps there's also a correlation between these privacy laws and concerns about contagion.

I have mixed feelings about posting, even though I am doing so. I won't go on and on about how I feel, because for me that's not constructive right now. I did know Sonya and she was stellar and I will see if there's something I can do to adequately commemorate her.

Please, everyone, take care of yourselves and each other.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pete M
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 4, 2009 at 8:38 pm

There is a problem when our children feel they have no options other than to end their own lives. It's sad when they don't feel that they can talk with people, either their families or friends about issues in their lives that are troubling them. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Resident,

The not reporting suicides goes quite a ways back--more than 20 years.
The exception is always the in-public situation. I agree that we're better off discussing things like prevention and detection.

And, frankly, I don't know what there is to say--which is what JustMe was saying.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm

My only question is WHY ??? I know that the note is a private message but I would very much find it helpful to know y she felt this was here only way out. My parents neighbor committed suicide i wont go into the gory details on here as to not give someone else any ideas but no one knows y not even his kids. This just happened in Jan of this year He had been sick and had just gotten out of the hospital that day within hours he was gone. We can all speculate as to y but not a one of us know for sure.
All we can do now is hope and pray that others dont feel this is a way to end it all. For example the guy in Menlo Park yesterday. Ran at the train from the platform and hit the second car ... he was lucky for now he survives.
They can put the train underground, put up barriers on a bridge if you really want to do urself in nothing anyone does can prevent you from doing it.
RIP Jp and Sonya
As for the rest of the Gunn Students - Happy Graduation !!!!!!!!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Since both of the cases I referred to were less than 20 years ago and both in Calif., laws did change and that's what my atty friend referred to, and I am not sure if they were state or local laws. For suicides in public, there often is more info avail., but reports can't be gotten I don't think, and the deaths are still kept quiet if possible.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sad and scared parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I weep for the parents of these two beautiful kids, and I have nightmares about being another such parent, about getting this news out of the blue when I think my child is safe in bed or with friends or at school.

My kids are in middle school. There is already pressure on a lot of kids to perform, academically and athletically. Seeing what happened with JP and Sonya, I am scared that enrolling my kids in any of the public or private schools in this area would be sending them deliberately into harm's way.

I show and tell my kids every day in any number of ways that they are precious to me exactly as God made them and they don't have to earn my love, and I imagine from what I have heard that the parents of these two teens did the same.

I have taken the CDC's advice and promised my kids I will never commit suicide, and have elicited promises from them to tell me first if they want to hurt themselves in any way. What more can one do? Is there any place that is a haven from the toxic quest for perfection at any cost that seems to have seized this community?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Sad and Scared Parent,

It's no coincidence that the kids in neighboring communities have lower suicide rates. I noticed it when I was growing up in this area.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Marie,

There's a chapter in Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon that discusses suicide that you might want to read.

Suicides don't make sense--in a sense there is no good why here. There are risk factors--but it's not cut-and-dried. Some apply, some don't.

I think there are toxic aspects to the environment around here--stressed depression leads to lower serotonin levels, so does lack of sleep--low serotonin levels are associated with suicide. The parameters for success here are narrow and the bar set very high--I think that sense of no way out also plays a part.

But more than that? Why some kids don't survive when most do? There are probably personal details that would give us an idea, but that does seem invasive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:43 pm

I have never agreed with Sharon before but I concur that the PA Weekly should shut down these threads about these suicides.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:00 am

Please shut this thread down. These are children in our community. We must do everything we can to not expose them to any further distress of losing their peers. PA Weekly, you are a paper in our community. Do the right thing. Our kids don't need to read any more of this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:07 am

Yes - shutdown the thread. Kids should not be reading this anymore.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Student
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:30 am

Please leave this thread up. I'm a kid, and this thread is giving me an indescribable amount of comfort. If it takes a village to raise a child, than it should take a village to heal one. There is something very soothing about hearing the entire community express its grief, even those who didn't know Sonya or J.P. Please don't take this thread down. When a person kills him or herself, it is for reasons that no one else can begin to understand, and a thread on the website of a small local newspaper is certainly not going to tip anyone over the edge. Give us a little more credit than that, please. Also, the comments that have co-opted this agonizing tragedy for political reasons (i.e. the high speed rail) are beyond offensive. Stop.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:53 am

The irony is remarkable. In one breath we are exhorting our kids to communicate more, the next we are demanding a safe anonymous forum that kids are actually using and participating in; be shut down.

Perhaps this exactly what these kids are talking about. Stop being perfect Palo Altans and just allow people to express themselves.

Justme? Beautifully said.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:54 am

agreed.
I think that it is important that students read about these things. I totally agree that it is comforting to find that so many people care about this subject and so many people want to help.
Please leave this thread up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2009 at 3:27 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Listen to Yourselves
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2009 at 8:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 5, 2009 at 10:13 am

I know that it is not very PC to talk about God, and faith, and spiritual issues en masse. However, many people are turning to their local churches or places of worship at times like these.

For parents who are really scared, for students who are really sad, or hurting, or anyone with questions, please consider that our local churches have people who are empathetic, who will listen, who will pray, who will not condemn, who are confidential, and talking and praying will help. No one is alone in this, and the churches are and always have been, a community resource for spiritual support.

Even if you have never thought about God, or ever been inside a church, please think now that this just might be a time to do just this and look and see.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2009 at 11:04 am

YSK is a registered user.

I think we have a new law idea for Joe Simitian. Kids under the age of 18 should be allowed to seek counseling without their parents knowledge or consent. PGSP has a program that utilizes young interns not so long out of high school themselves. They would perhaps be easier to confide in than more established therapists. Maybe something can be worked out where kids old enough and interested enough to initiate the contact for help, can receive it. In complete confidence. Hold a public event to raise money or take money from a private endowment fund and set aside those funds to pay for the services if need be. As a parent I knew the very nature of the teenage beast would make certain elements of communication with me off base. With my kids I made counseling mandatory, and additionally encouraged them to talk to anybody else they felt would listen. It's important to have no ego in that regard. It's more imperative they have that outlet than that a parent be included in or have control over every facet of their kids lives. From these threads I am garnering these kids feel too over controlled by others leaving very little of left of themselves. Give these kids a safe maybe even anonymous outlet to vent, let off steam, de-stress. Kids already have access to way too much of the world that's out of our control, why not give them this, something that could actually be positive?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Karin
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Karin is a registered user.

I agree with the other students, please don't shut down these threads. This is the only acknowledgement of their deaths that we have and without that it's like you're denying that it's a problem and devaluating their deaths. This is the only way for us to work through all this pain that kids our age should never have to deal with; talking about it is the only way to give us any sort of closure. I know reading about JP and Sonya's deaths have helped me so please don't take these away when we're already so fragile.


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