In Memoriam – Ariel Bourke

Ariel has always been an “old soul,” wise beyond her years. Not surprisingly, she grew into a thoughtful and smart young woman full of beauty and strength. When Ari chose a path, there was no dissuading her. She decided to end her precious life on April 14. She studied and lived lighting design, an art form that proved as ephemeral as she was. Ari persevered through life’s challenges with determination and grace. Notably, her high school trajectory was transformed in the summer of junior year by a life-threatening autoimmune illness that resulted in weeks of hospitalization followed by limited energy and school attendance upon her return to Northampton High School that fall. Not satisfied lounging around aimlessly, she quickly filled the new empty spaces by teaching herself theatrical lighting design which served as a life preserver and ultimately led to her college work and life’s passion. At Purchase College, Ari threw herself into her studies and theater production. She loved working long hours with fellow Design/Tech students, having found an outlet for her creativity and expression. Her friends and professors became her second family, evidenced by a shivah gathering illuminating (even by remote) how deeply she loved and was loved. Ari often spoke of college as a place where she felt at ease and accepted for who she was. Although it took her time to recognize and articulate, she was a queer transgender woman. Ari was described by her many close friends as an open and genuine person, and she made them feel supported to be their best and authentic selves. Ari could often be found taking long nighttime walks with friends, gazing at the stars, and pondering deep existential questions. In addition to lighting design, she loved drawing and tattooing, drinking exotic teas, and enjoying and sharing life with those close to her. Cape Cod and P-town often called to her, and she was always down for a Phish show, or two, or three. With Ari’s death, she leaves her sister and loyal advocate, Ilana, her loving parents Miriam and Andrew, her loving grandparents Marlene Bourke and Judy and Fred Krell, her dear uncles and aunts Jaron Bourke, Josh Krell, Krisna Basu, Jon Krell, and Marina Mazor, her cousins Leo, Bella and Susannah, and (“cape kids”) Sarah, Joe, Abe, Lily, and Logan, her chosen uncles Steve Garber and Bill Bonnet, and her many many cherished friends and loved ones. In lieu of meals and flowers, gifts of sustenance can be directed to the Northampton Survival Center, a local emergency food pantry that is meaningful to the Bourke family. Donations can be made in Ariel’s name to her chosen charity, the Sylvia Rivera Legal Project,, which provides free legal services to meet survival needs and build community power with transgender people who are low-income, people of color, and immigrants in NYC; and Gender Identity Validation Services, Inc., founded earlier this year by Ariel’s family and her father’s colleague to support trans and non-binary people in western MA. The Trevor Project,, offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ young people. For help, contact the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386. The Ascher-Zimmerman Funeral Home is helping the family.
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Apr. 25, 2020