An artist and a singer, an adventurer and an educator, Emilie Inman was unapologetically herself, a young woman who was known for her unwavering belief in unconditional love.
Inman, 27, was killed at her South Berkeley home Jan. 6. On Tuesday morning, Jan. 17, the person authorities believe is responsible is set to appear in court for the first time. Friends and family have grappled with Inman’s abrupt death, and many shared beautiful reflections and memories by email with Berkeleyside in recent days.
Best friend Minea Herwitz said it had been a devastating loss, both for those who knew Inman and for those who would never have the chance. The two women met a decade ago when they were students at UC Santa Cruz. Their lives collided, literally, when Inman tackled Herwitz during a game of midnight frisbee.
“No one loved as hard as Emilie,” said Herwitz. “She was spreading the practice of positive and powerful communication, of speaking one’s truth, and of fully becoming one’s own unique self. She was on her way to becoming probably the most amazing children’s teacher that the world will now never get to see. She was a walking artwork whose hands and voice manifested countless beautiful things: paintings, poems, earthen totems, songs (oh her songs!) and so much more.”
Inman’s longtime partner Matt said she was happiest seeing others in passionate pursuit of what they loved, whether it was their creative hobbies, a meaningful career or personal growth. (Matt and several others asked not to be identified by last name out of privacy concerns due to the nature of the case.) The two were together for nearly eight years, and met in college when Inman was 19.
“From her deeply caring hugs, to her passion for educating and relentlessly being the change she wanted to see in the world, Emilie has been nothing but a source of encouragement and inspiration to those who interacted with her,” he said, in a prepared statement. “I know that she helped many of us find our purpose or provided validation that we were on the right path. Simply put — and in language she would use — she got stoked seeing other humans stoked on what they love to do.”
Friend Barbara Tolbert met Inman in San Francisco in 2012-13 when Tolbert lived with Matt. Tolbert recalled how Inman had heard her playing music in her room, and came in to join in.
Tolbert recalled Inman as “one of the most intoxicatingly liberated and affectionate human beings that any person could ever meet. She was unforgettable, exceedingly welcoming and generous, and overflowing with talent. Indeed, too magical for this plane of existence.”
Many friends described Inman’s radiance and positivity, her shining face and her beaming smile. They spoke about her authenticity, joy and vivaciousness, and how she was someone who brought out the best from everyone around her. Inman was brave, and she was compassionate, they said.
“She was always very excited to explore the world around her and teach others what she knew. Especially if it involved music or climbing trees,” said Nicole, who worked with Inman in 2011-12 when they were both naturalist interns at an outdoor school outside Petaluma. “Emilie inspired many of us to sing and learn musical instruments so we could all sit together in our living room playing and enjoying each others’ company. It was always beautiful to fill the lodge with song and happiness.”
Friend Aparajita said the two met in 2014 when they began an education program in El Sobrante at the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training. Inman would have graduated from the three-year certification course in July.
“Emilie embodied beauty, truth, and goodness in every aspect of her being,” she said. “I consider her my teacher, friend, and kid sister all at once.”
Monica, who met Inman in 2011, described her friend as an artist and teacher, and a “community creator.” The two were part of a Bay Area sharing circle for women that Inman had helped organize.
“She put love first in all interactions and saw great success. She loved the earth, she loved people, and she never hesitated to share her light with people and things in pain and darkness,” Monica said. “Emilie had no time for smallness, she elevated everyone and everything she touched. She challenged us to think big and to be bold.”
Inman was someone who always pushed herself to be at her best and to live without fear. Many who knew her said that passion was infectious. Friend Tim Kopra, who attended UC Santa Cruz with Inman but got to know her better at Burning Man in 2012, said there’s no question Inman’s influence and memory will live on.
“She will echo in howls at full moons, songs played around campfires, deep conversations, and care taken for others. She loved all she met, and always welcomed the stranger. She gave every being on the planet the benefit of the doubt and believed that all beings were intrinsically good and loving,” he said.
After their time at Burning Man, Kopra said he was among a group of friends who shared many small dinners organized by Inman, which often featured jamming on musical instruments and celebrating the full moon or other celestial phenomena.
“Emilie Inman was a deep dreamer, passionate lover, kind caretaker, and a bright light to those in darkness,” he said. “She was a teacher, leader, brilliant musician, and artist. She believed that everyone has a responsibility to share their gifts, and that each individual on this planet deserves to do what makes them happy.”
Nasimeh Bahrayni Easton recalled how the two women met when they interviewed for the same job at Sienna Ranch in Lafayette about 2.5 years ago. Easton said the organization liked them both so much, they both got offered the position to share. Eventually, Easton moved on, but Inman was a teacher at Sienna Ranch at the time of her death.
Easton said Inman saw the good in everyone, and saw promise in every child.
“It was truly her calling to be with young folks,” she said. “The way she saw love and light in every being was incredible.… It was impossible not to love Emilie.”
At the time of her death, Inman was a nature program instructor for fifth- and sixth-graders at Sienna Ranch, according to its website. The organization describes itself as “a family-owned business whose focus is on youth, families, environment, and community.”
Chris Lauf, director of Sienna Ranch, said in a statement that Inman’s loss “has shaken our community to the core.” He said Inman had a bright future in teaching ahead of her, and had been devoted to equity in education. At the time of her death, she had been an advocate of a new scholarship program the school was creating. Lauf said the scholarship will be named after Inman to honor her memory.
Parents described Inman as a passionate teacher who brought her subjects to life, according to Lauf, who shared the following statement from a parent.
“Emilie knew just how to transport this diverse group of friends from one world to another filled with fascinating plants, fuzzytailed friends, mud puddles, hillside daydream, and original songs she had written. As the group evolved to include more students from our extended community, Emilie continued to embrace ALL children, especially those with special and complex needs. ”
According to Inman’s biography on the Sienna Ranch website, she was “born and raised in the French countryside and Paris” and “had a love of nature and humans.” Her family moved to San Luis Obispo when she was 10, and she went on to major in environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz.
“Teaching K-4th grade classes about intertidal species in Santa Cruz dressed in sea star costumes, working as a naturalist at Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma, CA, 6 months of travel in New Zealand and working at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City all are part of her story,” according to the bio.
Friends said it was impossible to make sense of Inman’s death, but credited their lost friend with helping them see a path forward.
Wrote Easton: “For her to have met such a tragic, sudden, early end is not only unthinkable the only way I can seem to process it is that this is some sort of wake up call, some sort of shaking up of all of us, to live as she did. For if we all did, wo! This earth would be an even more incredible place.”
Friend Matt Goff met Inman in Santa Cruz six years ago. They moved to Berkeley around the same time, too. Goff described Inman as a woman who embodied love and kindness, and saw every challenge, even the painful ones, as an opportunity to grow.
Inman wasn’t one to falter or contradict herself, he said. And he said he believed she would want her death to be a reminder that every moment is precious and that life is beautiful.
“I know my heart is bigger now for having known her, and I am grateful for that,” he said. “She will always be here for me, because I can think of her anytime I’m struggling and need guidance. I only have to think, ‘what would Emilie say?’ And I know exactly what she would say.… She would tell me to do the right thing, the thing that I know I must do, even if it’s the hardest option. She would tell me to act with love and empathy and kindness and to trust myself and my heart, and then she would tell me she loved me and that she knew I could do it, and she would give me a big hug.”
A playlist created by Matt, Inman’s partner, appears below.