Updated as of 9:55 p.m. on May 6 to include comment from junior Liliana Kelson.

Talia Malinsky silenced the strawberry fields.

Approximately 70 members of the Elon community attended a gathering of friends in the pavilion behind the Sklut Hillel Center on May 3 to share their feelings of loss and reflect on fond memories they’ve shared with Malinsky. Malinsky, who died on April 29 of brain cancer, was a member of Elon’s class of 2025 and an active member of the Jewish community. 

At the community garden next door, Elon’s annual spring strawberry festival was wrapping up, filling the warm spring air with music, laughter and conversation. As Malinsky’s friends and professors arrived, the warmth of the strawberry festival seemed to transfer into the hugs, memories and prayers given at the ceremony in Malinksy’s honor.

Malinsky is survived by her parents Irit and Mark Malinsky. As of May 3, they were able to raise nearly $20,000 via an online fundraiser to transport and bury Talia in Jerusalem — as Mark said she was planning to move to Israel after graduation, according to previous Elon News Network coverage. 

Jewish Educator Boaz Avraham-Katz, who was one of Talia’s professors, began the ceremony by having everyone stand together under the pavilion. University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement Kirstin Boswell also led the service in a prayer before allowing some of Talia’s friends to speak about their memories with her.

Joseph Navin | Elon News Network

Members of the Elon community take part in a memorial service at the pavilion behind the Sklut Hillel Center on May 3 to remember Elon junior Talia Malinsky, who died of brain cancer on April 29. 

Junior James Koether attended the gathering and said it was nice to see everyone come together for his friend.

“From the minute I met her, she was just so sweet. She would text me every day asking me how I was and how I was doing,” Koether said. “I saw her out and around all the time. She would come up to me with a smile on her face and big open arms. She could be going through the worst day ever and she would just always have this positive attitude and mindset with her.”

Koether described Talia as the most selfless person he had ever met and would like people to remember her for her openness and kindness.

“Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. And Mrs. Malinsky, and they never knew me, but I want you to know that your daughter was the happiest, most selfless person I think I've ever met,” Koether said. “She was super sweet, caring — we had a great relationship and a great friendship, and she will be truly missed.”

Koether said he didn’t know how to feel when he heard of her passing.

“I honestly shut down. Last time I talked with her, she told me she had a brain surgery and that she was in recovery and she was excited to see me next year,” Koether said. “She was the type of person to never tell people that she was … coming out of remission because she didn't want people to treat her differently or see her differently at all. So it definitely hurt. Her unfortunate passing came as a shock to me.”

Koether said the gathering was a beautiful moment to come together and honor her life as a community.

“It was beautiful. There are people here who were very close with her and other people who weren't so close to her, but we all came together,” Koether said. “A loss in the Elon community is like a loss of a family member, whether you did know them or not.”

Unfortunately, this is the third memorial gathering for an Elon student who has died in the past year — with former junior Jackson Yelle being killed in a hit-and-run almost exactly one year ago and former sophomore Jason Titunik dying in a car crash in July 2023.

Junior Abigail Hayes attended the gathering and said she met Talia the second day of their freshman year. She lived just a couple doors down from her in West dormitory.

“My first impression of her was her outgoing personality. She had a bubble of energy,” Hayes wrote to Elon News Network. “I could immediately tell that she was the life of the party.”

Heading into their sophomore year, Hayes and Talia moved into Danieley F where Hayes said they did everything together.

“From going out to dinner at Clohan, making Target/Ulta runs together, taking her to work at the Elon Inn, fostering kittens together, going to the movies and seeing the latest movie, and even making TikToks together,” Hayes wrote. “She was my go-to person for EVERYTHING.”

Junior Liliana Kelson said she met Talia in 2021 when they both attended Camp Zeke — a Judaism-centered sleepaway camp.

“When I met her I understood why everyone loved her so much,” Kelson wrote to Elon News Network. “Those four weeks were so much better because she was there to brighten every moment. I can still hear her laugh and I hope to never forget it.”

According to Hayes, Talia was short but spunky, energetic, funny, optimistic and kind. She also loved to work out, spend time with friends and read.

“I'm looking through my pictures and videos of Talia and in almost every clip I'm laughing," Hayes wrote. "She never failed to make someone laugh or brighten their day."


Mason Willett contributed to the reporting of this story.