Bat mitzvah student killed while at Junior Olympics of the AAU

Only months before her bat mitzvah, a San Francisco girl was hit and killed by a car on Aug. 5 in Charlotte, N.C.

Eva Leah Gunther, 12, was struck while crossing a busy six-lane road with her father. She was attending the AAU Junior Olympics and was scheduled to compete in tae kwon do.

Eva is survived by her parents, Anne Krantz and Mark Gunther, and her sister Sophie Asia Gunther, 8, as well as grandparents Richard and Lois Gunther and Robert and Beatrice Krantz.

"Eva was the most alive person I've ever met," said Richard Gunther. "She went through life with great confidence."

Eva was born at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco and had attended Congregation Beth Sholom's religious school for most of her life. According to Cantor Adi Wyner, she was planning on leading the entire morning service for her bat mitzvah.

"She was tremendous. She found so much time and energy," he said. "When I last saw her, she said to me, `I'm going away on this trip, and when I come back I will have learned the entire morning service, so we can get on with the Torah.'

"She was a beautiful little neshamah [soul]. What's tragic is that not everyone knew her."

Eva's life was punctuated by an excitement for learning that carried over to her secular schooling. Diana Rosenblum, her math teacher at Presidio Hill School in San Francisco, recalled times when Gunther would approach her, wanting to learn more.

"I taught her the basics of trigonometry in 20 minutes. But she wasn't interested in bragging, she just wanted to learn."

Eva's desires drew her from skiing to martial arts to reading to acting to a love of ice cream. She was planning on testing for her black belt in tae kwon do before the end of the year.

Yet one of her strongest passions was for science fiction. Her favorite movies were the "Star Wars" trilogy, which she had memorized. Her favorite books included Frank Herbert's "Dune" series and Ann McCaffrey's novels about the planet Pern.

"She knew everything about Pern," said Rosenblum, who added that although Eva was enamored with fantasy, she was "very logical, and didn't take the fiction literally. She was even-keeled and stable."

Eva did more than inspire the adults in her life. She had a large number of friends, and the memorial arranged outside Presidio Hill proved that she was loved and respected by many.

One of her friends from religious school, Eva Segal, said, "I know that it hasn't really sunk in that she won't be there in September, because she's always been there."

Eva Gunther also spent time with her younger sister Sophie, which Rosenblum said is not common among 12-year-olds. "She was a dream of an older sister for a younger kid."

Her love of younger children stretched beyond her family. She spent this past summer as a counselor-in-training at Presidio Hill's summer camp.

Reflecting on Eva, Rosenblum began to laugh as she retold a favorite joke of Eva's.

"A little boy is afraid of kreplach. His mother wants to help him overcome his fear, so she tells him that they'll make some kreplach together.

"She folds the dough from one corner and asks, `Are you scared?'

"The boy replies, `No.'

"She folds the second corner and asks, "Are you scared?'

"The boy says, `No.'

"She folds the third corner and again asks, `Are you scared?'

"He says, `No.'

"Just as his mother turns over the fourth corner he screams, `Aah! A kreplach!'"

Services were held at Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco with interment at Home of Peace Cemetery, Colma. Contributions can be made to Presidio Hill School, 3839 Washington St., S.F., CA 94118, or Congregation Beth Sholom, 1301 Clement St., S.F., CA 94118.