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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 31, 2008

Dies in accident at 25
Schwarz ‘touched a lot of lives in such a short time’

By Tyler Schuling

ALBANY COUNTY — Sonja Schwarz was a beautiful, brilliant young woman who had a huge heart, said her aunt, Janice Willard.

An honors student in her last year at Sage College, Miss Schwarz died last Thursday after a sedan she had been driving careened off of a road in New Scotland and struck a barn. She was 25.

When she was 4 years old, Miss Schwarz’s mother died at the age of 38 in an automobile accident, said her aunt. Miss Schwarz survived the crash.

She was raised by Ms. Willard, a former Schenectady school teacher, and Gina Gordon, an Albany educator. Miss Schwarz called Ms. Willard and Ms. Gordon "her parental surrogates," Ms. Willard said.

Miss Schwarz had an affinity for the elderly and loved children, Ms. Willard said.

"She had a passionate interest and an advocate’s voice for civil rights and the rights of children, and volunteered for mentoring and elder care in the local community," said her family in a tribute.

Miss Schwarz had high aspirations for her future.

"She really wanted to go to law school," said Ms. Willard.

After graduating from the Albany Academy for Girls in 2000, Miss Schwarz attended Boston University. She returned to the Capital District and attended Bryant and Stratton College and received a paralegal certificate. She had recently been hired by an Albany law firm Rehfuss Liguori and Associates.

Ms. Willard is an attorney. "I think that had kind of an influence on Sonja," she said.

After moving from Schenectady to the village of Altamont to live with her parental surrogates, Miss Schwarz lived on her own in Latham, said Ms. Willard.

Miss Schwarz worked at a Guilderland Center nursing home, as a waitress at Red Robin, and at Albany Medical Center. She also worked as a legal administrator for Green and Seiffer.

A steady line of visitors from every walk of life you can imagine came to the funeral home on Sunday, said Ms. Willard. "They were of every race and every religion," she said.

Waitresses who had worked with Miss Schwarz at Red Robin and her former teachers were among those who came, she said. A professor from Sage came and told Ms. Willard what grade Sonja Schwarz had earned the previous semester.

"She obviously touched a lot of people’s lives in a very short time," said Ms. Willard.


Miss Schwarz is survived by her grandfather, Otto Schwarz; aunts, Judy Schwarz and Janice Willard; parental surrogate Gina Gordon; and cousins Tracy and Zachary Caldwell.

Her mother, Sandra K. Schwarz, died before her as did her grandmother, Myra, and her aunt, Sharon Schwarz.

A funeral service was held Monday morning. Interment was in Memory’s Garden in Colonie. The Daly Funeral Home in Schenectady made the arrangements.

Memorial contributions may be made to Equinox (Children’s Program), 95 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12206.

Fire chief says
Fatal crash on Route 32 scene of many accidents

By Tyler Schuling

NEW SCOTLAND — A young driver and her passenger died last week after her car crashed into a barn along a stretch of road where many accidents have occurred.

Sonja Schwarz, 25, of the Capital District, with passenger Edward Jennings, 39, from the Bronx, was driving northbound on Route 32 in New Scotland at 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 when her 2004 Saturn sedan went off the road and struck a barn.

Jennings was pronounced dead at the scene by Albany County Coroner John Keegan. Schwartz was transported to Albany Medical Center Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries. Both had to be extricated from the vehicle.

Schwarz failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway due to unsafe speed and left the road by the east shoulder, according to State Police. Trooper Maureen Tuffey said both Schwarz and Jennings had been wearing seatbelts. The road was dry and the weather was clear, she said. Asked how unsafe speed was determined to be the cause of the accident, Tuffey said it was by evidence at the scene — by how badly the car was damaged, by how badly the building was damaged, and by skid marks.

There was no indication at the scene, Tuffey said, that drugs or alcohol were involved. State Police are waiting for toxicology tests from the autopsy, she said on Monday.

The accident occurred on Route 32, one-half mile north of LaGrange Lane, Tuffey said. A State Police building in New Scotland is just over one mile from the barn.

There are multiple curves along the hilly stretch between LaGrange Lane and Onesquethaw Creek Road, a street 1.5 miles to the north. Between the roads, six markers warn drivers of approaching bends and speed is reduced to 35, 40, and 45 miles per hour. South of LaGrange Lane and north of Feura Bush, the hamlet just north of the scene of the accident, the speed limit is 55 miles per hour.

Over the years, there have been many accidents up and down the road, according to Fred Spaulding, the chief of the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company. Spaulding, who was at the scene, said that, before entering the barn, rescuers had to first determine whether they could go in because the structure had been compromised. This week, new posts were in place to support the damaged corner of the empty barn.

The Albany County Sheriff’s Department, Albany County Paramedics, the Slingerlands Fire Department, and the Onesquethaw ambulance squad provided mutual aid.

"It was something that you deal with," Spaulding said of the danger of the barn collapsing. The rescuers needed to minimize the chance of any more injuries, to firefighters or other personnel.

As injuries become more severe, the level of intensity goes up for rescue workers, Spaulding said. With severe injuries, he said, "Time is of the essence."

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