Amherst woman, 88, identified as victim in school van crash

  • First responders on the scene of a crash involving an Amherst school bus van and a pedestrian on West Street in Amherst near the entry road to Crocker Farm Elementary School Wednesday morning.  STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • This photo of Eva Fenner accompanied a December 1981 Gazette story about her gingerbread houses. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

AMHERST — An 88-year-old Amherst woman has been identified as the victim in a fatal pedestrian accident on the morning of Sept. 11.

Eva Fenner, who lived at 188 West St., was struck by a school van exiting Crocker Farm Elementary School at approximately 11 a.m., according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

Three children on board the bus were safely returned to the school and were not injured.

The school, at 280 West St., is a short distance from Fenner’s home.

Amherst Police, Massachusetts State Police assigned to the DA’s office, the MSP Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and MSP Crime Scene Services are investigating. The chief medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death.

A native of Germany, Fenner, who had lived in Amherst since the late 1950s and in her home since 1961, taught recorder lessons for the town’s Leisure Services and Supplemental Education department in the 1980s. She worked as a scientific illustrator for the University of Massachusetts in the 1970s,with her most recent employment at UMass as a department assistant in biochemistry from 1983 to 1991.

A 1981 Gazette article about Fenner described her creation of gingerbread houses, with the recorder students preparing for a recital enjoying the “nibbling house” she had created.

Recently, Fenner was a fixture in her neighborhood, often seen making her way up and down the street.

“She was a regular walker,” said Lillian Gordon, a West Street neighbor who saw her on the sidewalks or at the edge of the street, when she boarded or got off from the bus. “She took the bus everywhere.”

“Her death has shaken us all up and we need time to grieve as she was a very special and caring lady,” Gordon added.

Only a short time before the accident, Fenner was at the Wednesday morning market at the Bangs Community Center, where produce, bread and other food are available to senior citizens. 

Helen MacMellon, a social worker at the senior center, said Fenner was a regular presence those mornings and descrived her as a “sweet lady.” Fenner’s compassion for others was demonstrated recently, MacMellon said, when, seeing that she was having a stressful day, Fenner went to Hastings to get a card in hopes of lifting MacMellon’s spirits.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.