Scholarship Established in Tribute to Victim of Station Fire
From left, Lee Hoisington, Melissa Ruggieri (scholarship recipient) and Bonnie Hoisington
Abbie Hoisington was among the 100 victims who died in The Station nightclub fire in 2003, one of the deadliest fires in the nation’s history. She was only 28 years old, a special education teacher and a graduate student at RIC at the time of her death.
As a tribute to Abbie, her parents Bonnie and Lee Hoisington established the Abbie Hoisington Memorial Scholarship Fund to support future teachers of special education.
Twenty-one-year-old Melissa Ruggieri, a senior elementary education major with a concentration in special education, was recently named the first recipient of the scholarship. Having met Ruggieri, Bonnie said that “Abbie would be pleased.” Bonnie also noted the “uncanny” similarities between Ruggieri and her daughter.
“Both girls are tiny,” she said. Abbie was 4’10". Melissa is 5’1". Both were raised in Cranston and attended Park View Junior High School and later Cranston East High School. Both were active in Special Olympics – Abbie as a member of the Special Education Club at her high school and Ruggieri as a way to support her 30-year-old sister who has cerebral palsy and who was a member of the Cranston Rockets Special Olympics team. Ruggieri went on to volunteer at other Special Olympics events as well while in high school.
Ruggieri said, “Being with my sister and watching how she learned and looking for ways to help her learn motivated me to go into special education.”
As for Abbie, she had been teaching in the field of special education for seven years. In 2002 she had begun a new job at Burrillville High School teaching life skills to students with severe/profound disabilities.
Every Thursday she would drive her students to the supermarket where she would show them how to purchase items for a meal. The following day, she would incorporate the excursion into her lesson plan. For instance, Abbie might buy Italian ingredients and show her students how to cook an Italian meal, incorporating the history of Italy, the geography of the region, math and measurements and the Italian language.
“Abbie was a fountain of enthusiasm,” Bonnie said. “When she died, I asked that donations go to the school to purchase items for her classroom. The outpouring was unbelievable. The school was able to buy a new stove, microwave, computer, cabinets, a television and many other items. Having met Melissa, I saw the same passion for teaching. She can’t wait to get into the classroom.”
The pain of losing Abbie, however, never abates, Bonnie said. She remembered the last conversation she had with her daughter. “Abbie wasn't a fan of the Great White, the band playing at The Station the night of the fire. She went because her friend, Lisa D’Andrea, a special education teacher in Cranston, asked her to come.” D’Andrea, 42, of Barrington, also died in the fire.
Abbie was posthumously awarded an MEd in 2003. In 2013 the Abbie Hoisington Memorial Scholarship Fund was established through contributions from family members, friends and colleagues. “I don’t want Abbie to ever be forgotten,” her mother said.