TOTOWA, NJ - A special banner will be displayed this Saturday for the borough's opening day ceremony at Lincoln Field in honor of Ashley Ann Barnes, local resident and class of 2014 graduate of Passaic Valley High School.
Ashley died unexpectedly last August at the age of 19. She was a sailor in the United States Navy and was based in Gaeta, Italy, serving as an information systems technician, when she died.
"I received news that the Totowa Police Athletic League (P.A.L.) will be displaying a banner for my sister, Ashley Barnes, during the softball opening day on April 22," said her brother Erik. "It's very nice of those individuals who put this together."
Born in Philadelphia, Pa. Ashley lived in Totowa for most of her life. During high school, she played varsity field hockey. She also played softball and basketball.
According to Marianne Puluse, family friend, and vice chair of the P.A.L., Ashley played softball for many years in town.
"Rich Ruocco is the P.A.L.'s baseball commissioner who used to run the softball program and coach Ashley," she said. "Myself, along with Rich and George DiPasquale, P.A.L. chairman, we and the entire community, will be honoring her this Saturday. Rich will be giving the speech at the opening ceremony. We all remember her as one of the best players because she did whatever you told her to do out on the field."
Along with her family, she said the whole community was devastated by the loss.
"She was one of my daughter's good friends," she explained. "Kaitland and Ashley went to school together and took part in many of the sports together. I remember her in her uniform and running around with the other kids on the field. She was a great kid who would do anything for anybody."
Marianne also designed the banner, which was donated by Matt and Kelly Snell of Print and Cut Designs, located in Totowa.
"It reads, 'In memory of Ashley Barnes,'" she said, adding it will detail a softball design on it shaped like a heart, with angel wings coming out of it that reads "friend, 'teammate, hero" on it. The banner will also show her softball uniform number on it - 27 - because she was born on Sept. 27.
"We were all devastated when we found out she passed suddenly and you can't believe this could happen to someone so young," she noted. "My daughter had just seen and talked to her before she returned back to Italy after being on leave."
She reemphasized that Ashley was someone who deserves to be remembered.
"A lot of kids come through the P.A.L. program but Ashley was special. She's never going to be forgotten."
Erik echoed the sentiment.
"I miss her dearly and I know she would love this."