“Contagious smiles and infectious laughter” was how many people described Hannah (Grieser) Hochstetler.On Jan. 19, Hochstetler, a 2013 graduate of Goshen College, was traveling through Virginia with her husband, Caleb, when their car was struck head-on.
The 72-year-old man, Monte Zuck, who was driving the other vehicle, lost control, crossed over the median and hit the Hochstetlers. Hannah was killed, and Caleb was taken to the hospital. Zuck was charged with reckless driving.
The Hochstetlers were on their way back to Jackson, Mississippi where they were leading a Service Adventure unit, a program of Mennonite Mission Network.
The loss of Hochstetler, originally from Goshen, has been felt by the GC community and beyond.
During her time at GC, Hochstetler majored in communications and minored in Spanish. She was also an active member of the volleyball team, serving as captain.
Missy Smith, a 2015 graduate of Goshen College, played volleyball with Hochstetler for three years.
“She was the glue to our team, and that’s what made her a great captain,” Smith said. “I’m very thankful God allowed our paths to cross at Goshen. The world could not have asked for a more selfless, kind soul.”
Hochstetler was a main reason that Smith chose to come to Goshen. Describing her joy and positivity, Smith said, “She made Goshen feel like home.” After a tough game for Smith, Hochstetler would make it a point to talk with her, starting and ending the conversations with a hug.
“It was like having a big sister while at college,” she said. “She never judged, but always loved.”
Lexus Nicole, a 2014 GC graduate, had known Hochstetler since middle school as both a teammate and a friend. “Hannah was a breath of fresh air,” she said. “Her positivity was constant and her faith inspiring. Through all the wins and losses, there was Hannah telling me to keep my head up.”
Danielle Kerschhackl, a 2016 GC graduate, also noted Hochstetler’s hugs.
“She gave these hugs, these all-encompassing hugs,” she said. “Her arms just wrapped around you, and you knew that everything was going to be OK because you’re getting this huge, amazing hug from Hannah.”
Kerschhackl remembers Hochstetler as a person “so happy and full of life” and names her as the best person she’s ever met.
“She was someone that no matter what kind of day you were having, you would see her and her face would just light up,” Kerschhackl said, “and her big smile would just stretch across her face. You couldn’t help but grin back because her smile was contagious, her laugh was infectious and whenever you were in her presence you were immediately happier.”
Jim Routhier, head volleyball coach, started coaching for GC at the same time that Hochstetler started her career as a Maple Leaf.
“I have been coaching for over 30 years,” he said, “and a person like Hannah comes along once if you are lucky. She had a smile that would light up a room when she walked in and a personality to warm your heart.”
He spoke highly of Hochstetler’s ability to find positives in everything and everyone and her consistent search of ways to help other people.
“Hannah was a delight to have on the team,” Routhier said, “and I feel very thankful that I had the privilege of knowing and coaching Hannah. I will miss her greatly, but she will never be forgotten.”
Bob Yoder, campus pastor, had Hochstetler in class and oversaw her Camping Inquiry Program placement.
“Hannah had an infectious smile and compassionate soul that cheered my heart when I’d pass her on the sidewalk,” Yoder said. “She was a true servant and deeply committed to her faith.”
Yoder commented on Hochstetler’s commitment to serving the people around her.
“Hannah was a gem of a person who brightened and encouraged the spirits of those with whom she interacted,” he said. “I am saddened that I will not be able to run into her down the road and catch up on how life is going for her.”
Hannah is survived by her parents Michael and Beth Grieser of Goshen. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.