Keri Ann Sirbaugh, student, poet dreamed of career as a writer


Keri Ann Sirbaugh, who dreamed of becoming a professional writer after finishing college, was found dead Wednesday outside her Hamilton home. Her death was ruled a homicide yesterday.

Ms. Sirbaugh, 21, a journalism major who recently completed her junior year at American University in Washington, was found dead several hours after two 911 emergency calls brought officers to her neighborhood. Police are continuing the investigation.

While attending school, Ms. Sirbaugh had been a waitress at Louie's Book Store Cafe on North Charles Street downtown for the past three years and recently was promoted to bartender.

"She worked real hard at her studies and held a full-time job at the same time," said co-worker George Rickles. "We were devastated when we heard the news, and the restaurant closed. We just couldn't work any longer."

"Keri was the kind of person who always showed up for other people's readings, concerts and performances. She was always there to support her friends and colleagues," Mr. Rickles said. "She also loved dancing and could dance till dawn and then get up and go to work."

Louie's personnel manager, Shani Mack, said Ms. Sirbaugh was "an exceptional employee and an intelligent young woman. . . . She was a very good friend to all of us and we're going to miss her."

Born and raised in Parkville, she was a graduate of St. Michael the Archangel Parochial School in Overlea. After attending Mercy High School for two years, she transferred to Towson Catholic High School and graduated 10th in her class in 1991.

At Towson Catholic she acted in the drama club, immersed herself in writing poetry and short stories, and was editor in chief of the school's literary magazine, The Unicorn.

In the 1990-1991 issue of the magazine, several of her poems were published, including "Giving and Taking":

Waves brush the shoreline

Giving and taking when they hit.

Treasures brought,

Fortunes stolen,

Memories washed away.

Giving and Taking

are the impish little thieves

grabbing onto their sought for gifts

and replacing them with empty dreams.

Giving and Taking

are the waves;

they do not care,

for they are doing as they are directed.

Ms. Sirbaugh attended Essex Community College, then enrolled the school of communications at American University last year and continued to write in her spare time. She also enjoyed photography and traveling.

"She wanted to write -- she loved to write -- and hoped one day to be a reporter for a newspaper or magazine," said Mary Gepp, a friend who lives in Baltimore. "She loved life and would have been a wonderful writer. She was good at everything she did."

Ms. Gepp quietly added, "She was always very close to me and helped me out when I had problems. She had a real gift for cheering people up when they were down. She could always make people smile."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Michael the Archangel, Belair Road and Willow Avenue, Overlea.

She is survived by her parents, William A. and Frances Sirbaugh of Parkville; a brother, Bryan C. Sirbaugh of Parkville; her maternal grandparents, Frank and Mary Jane Weaver of Freeland; several uncles and aunts; and four cousins.

The family suggested donations to the Keri Ann Sirbaugh Memorial Scholarship for an Incoming Fine Arts Student, in care of Towson Catholic High School, 114 Ware Ave., Towson 21204.

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