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Death Notice Guestbook

Obituary: Haley Surti / Recent Harvard grad from O'Hara, excelled at sports, music writing

Saturday, June 16, 2001

By Mike Bucsko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Over the next few months, Haley Surti planned to combine fun with work and learn firsthand how to survive in Peru and Bolivia on the cheap.

Then she planned to get down to serious business by traveling to India to teach in impoverished areas of that country.

Early Tuesday, five days after her graduation from Harvard University, Miss Surti, 21, of O'Hara, died in a bus accident as she was traveling from Lima to Iacucho, Peru. She was one of 27 passengers. Four were killed; 13 others were injured.

"She was one of those kids who was perfect at everything," said Debbie Reaves, who taught English at Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside when Miss Surti was a student there.

An athlete, musician, scholar and writer, Miss Surti seemingly excelled at every endeavor she tried.

At Winchester Thurston, she played basketball, field hockey and lacrosse. As a junior, she was named the school's athlete of the year.

Reaves recalled being at a meeting at which teachers discussed annual awards given to students in each subject. Miss Surti's name was at the top of every list.

While in high school, Ms. Surti played violin in the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony and the Three Rivers Young Peoples Ochestra.

She spent her summers helping out at the Carriage House Children's Center in Squirrel Hill, where she once attended preschool and where her maternal grandmother, Shanti Sheth, 75, still teaches.

Reaves met Miss Surti when she taught the latter freshman English. She taught Miss Surti again in her junior year and was the advisor to the Winchester Thurston newspaper, Voices, while Miss Surti was co-editor.

While at Harvard, Miss Surti was the violinist for the music society in her dormitory, Mather House; a member of the women's lacrosse team, a volunteer in an after-school program in Boston and the editor of Sankar, an anthology of South Asian poetry and short stories.

Miss Surti was in Peru working for Let's Go, a travel guide written and published by Harvard students. It was her second stint with the travel guide; she was associate editor last summer for a guide on Central America.

She graduated from Harvard June 7 and left Pittsburgh for Peru on Sunday night.

Miss Surti's parents, Shailesh and Urvashi, and her sister, Toral, went to Peru after being notified of the accident. They identified her body Thursday.

The family will remember Ms. Surti during a memorial service from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at Winchester Thurston School. Visitation will be from 3 to 4 p.m., followed by a religious service at Beinhauer's Mortuary, 2630 W. Liberty Ave., Dormont.

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