Growing up near Prettyboy Reservoir, Sara M. Kurzmiller enjoyed spending time in the outdoors and taking long hikes throughout the Baltimore County watershed. Athletic, she liked playing soccer, tennis and volleyball and had earned a first-degree tae kwon do black belt, graduating at the top of her class.
At school, Ms. Kurzmiller was an academically accomplished student who regularly made the honor role and had racked up perfect attendance records.
She liked to dance, had a wide range of musical interests and traveled with her soon-to-be fiance, Benjamin R. Burke, to attend concerts. She was looking forward to becoming engaged.
Because she liked following the weather, for a time she thought she might become a meteorologist, but plans changed, and she decided to pursue a career instead as a nutritionist.
Those dreams ended Sept. 9 when Ms. Kurzmiller was seriously injured in an automobile accident in the 6300 block of York Road, near Anneslie, that remains under investigation by Baltimore County Police, family members said.
“Her car caught on fire, and nearby merchants came and helped put the fire out,” said a sister, Lisa Nicole Kurzmiller of Timonium. “Her legs were badly injured, and she died Sept. 27 at Sinai Hospital.”
The Essex resident was 23.
“No determination has been made by the police as to the cause,” said her father, Kenneth M. Kurzmiller of Hereford.
“Sara was a loving and compassionate person who loved to be silly and make you laugh,” said her mother, Maria L. Kurzmiller of Timonium, a medical secretary. “She has the most beautiful smile that could light up your soul.”
“Sara was a really an outgoing, caring kind of person,” said Mr. Kurzmiller, who owned an HVAC firm. “Even if you didn’t know her, when she interacted with you, she was always smiling and happy. She was a people person who cared about people and even those she didn’t know.”
Sara Maria Kurzmiller was born in Baltimore and raised in Hereford. She was a 2015 graduate of Hereford High School and attended Stevenson University and the Community College Baltimore County: Essex.
“Growing up and because we were very close to the same age, I’m 22, and people thought we were twins,” her sister said. “Sara was always very happy and energetic.”
When she was 10 or a ll, her father laid out a trail where she and her sister could ride their four-wheelers.
“It was a course through the woods and at the bottom there was a downhill turn, and Sara would flip over, get back up, brush herself off, and get back on and go,” her father said. “She was tough and nothing ever fazed her.”
Ms. Kurzmiller had planned to be a meteorologist but was discouraged by the number of math and science classes required to become one.
“Math and science were not her strong suits,” her sister said.
Ms. Kurzmiller worked as a cashier at Mars until the grocery chain closed down in 2016 and then took a job at Panera in its Timonium store as a barista and later became a trainer.
“I’ve known Sara for four years,” Mr. Burke said. “She was working as a barista and I thought to myself, ‘I really want to meet her,' and that’s the reason I got a job there three weeks later, and we became technically co-workers. Stalking a girl at Panera and falling in love with her made the last four years lovely ones."
After leaving Panera two years ago, Ms. Kurzmiller became a manager at the Vitamin Shoppe in Lutherville.
“As a worker, Sara was one of the hardest-working workers we had,” said Ryan P. Pribgeon of Bel Air, the assistant store manager.
“She had a wonderful attitude and always went up and beyond the call of duty for our customers, who are saddened by her loss," he said. "She was sweet, positive, never negative, and always looking on the bright side of things. She was such a great person inside and out, and if I was having a bad day, she’d pick up the slack.”
Mr. Pribgeon said he enjoyed sharing shifts with Ms. Kurzmiller.
“We started this intimate thing, I called her ‘Mrs. Sara,’ and she called me ‘Mr. Ryan.’ It was an inside joke and a lot of fun,” he said. “She was also our weather guru and she’d go out and take pictures of sunsets and would get excited when a storm was coming our way.”
Even though she was intrigued by the vagaries of the weather, Ms. Kurzmiller decided that she wanted to study to become a nutritionist and a dietitian.
“As much as she loved the sky and the stars, she wanted to help people and care for their bodies,” said Mr. Burke, operations associate for Prometric in Canton.
When they weren’t working, the couple liked attending concerts. “We enjoyed all kinds of music and would go all over the U.S.,” Mr. Burke said. “We liked going to Blake Shelton concerts and went to see such singers as Jimmy Buffet, Elton John and many others.”
They purchased a home together in Essex and moved in Labor Day weekend.
“We were planning to get engaged, but I was waiting until after we moved into our new house,” Mr. Burke said. “I’m kind of old-fashioned and was waiting to ask her dad for permission to marry Sara."
“Sara absolutely loved her family and told me that in many intimate conversations,” recalled Mr. Pribgeon. “She told me that when she was growing up no matter what had happened, no one was to go to bed angry. She taught me that, and I do that with my daughter, and I’ll always keep that lesson with me.”
“When you think of Sara, celebrate the good memories you have of her,” her mother said. “She would want us to remember that life is fragile and short and should be lived to the fullest.”
“She was such a bright and cheerful soul,” her boyfriend said.
A celebration-of-life service limited to 50 people in the room will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium.
In addition to her parents, sister and boyfriend, Ms. Kurzmiller is survived by a brother, Brian Keith Kurzmiller of White Hall; another sister, Christina Marie Kurzmiller of Loch Raven; maternal grandparents, Tom and Eva Carlucci of Timonium; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.