BOONVILLE - After a courageous four-year battle with ovarian cancer, 2009 Starmount graduate Meme Brown died Monday night at the age of 21.
During her fight, the Starmount community has banded together to support and raise money for Brown and her family. The fundraising included a volleyball benefit tri-match this past Saturday that raised close to $5,000 toward her medical expenses.
“It’s hard to talk about,” head volleyball coach Jon Symons said during Saturday’s fundraiser, which was held two days before her death. “It’s unreal to see the lives that she has touched that have decided to come watch her favorite thing to do and raise money to help her and her family. The amount of people that have come and the amount of stories that we got to tell about Meme have made everything worthwhile for me.”
In an emotional day of “Meme’s favorite thing to do,” Brown was honored for the impact she had on the Ram volleyball program, Starmount and the community as a whole.
Business and marketing teacher and volleyball statistician Melanie Matthews gave a moving speech about Brown, while family friend and current volleyball player Josie Matthews led a ceremony to retire Brown’s No. 32 jersey she wore during her time at Starmount.
“It’s one of those things that she’s meant so much to this program, that it was an easy decision to make,” Symons said. “The thing is that jersey is going to be with us from here until the end of the season. And it will sit at the end of our bench and we will think about Meme every time we walk on the floor and what she’s had to go through over the last four years.
“No one is ever going to wear the No. 32 at Starmount; that’s Meme’s jersey. She deserves it; she deserves to have her jersey retired. For me, it’s the least I could do for that kid,” he continued.
With the state playoffs looming around the corner, Symons said usually the focus of tri-matches towards the end of the year are to get better and prepare for postseason action. But on Saturday, he said the wins and losses didn’t matter.
“You do a lot of things with these tri-matches to try and get ready for the state playoffs; that’s your focus. And when you play teams like Carson and Reagan, you know you’re going to get ready by just showing up and playing,” he explained. “I don’t care about the wins and losses today, it was cool to do something for Meme and to see how many people truly care about that kid.”
Brown, a 2009 graduate of Starmount, was a four-year starter for Symons. As a middle blocking specialist, she earned all-conference honors her final two seasons and an honorable mention all-conference as a sophomore.
Brown was a integral part of the Lady Rams’ three-straight trips to the 2A Western Regional final in 2006-08, including starting in the state title game in Raleigh in ‘07.
In addition to volleyball, the Boonville native also played basketball for Starmount for four seasons, suiting up for varsity her final three years. She also ran track as a junior and senior, which included running a leg on two all-conference relay teams, the 4x200 and 4x400 in 2008.
Following graduation, Brown signed her official letter of intent to play volleyball at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk.
But the deadly disease cut her collegiate career short, as Brown was only able to play two seasons for the Bobcats in 2009 and 2010. During her time at Lees-McRae, she posted 71 kills, 33 blocks, 18 digs and 19 service aces in only 32 matches played.
Meme is survived by her parents, David and Sharon, and her brother, Tyler, of Boonville.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.