By ERIN ROLL
Those who knew Montclair resident Joan Juengling, who perished in a train accident last week, said that her beauty shone inside and out.
As family and friends prepared for funeral services this week, a simple request was made in her memory: instead of flowers, do an act of kindness for someone in Juengling’s memory, or make a donation to a charity of your choice.
Juengling, 28, was struck and killed by a NJ Transit train just west of Watchung Avenue in the early morning hours of Nov. 13.
As an aspiring model, she used her talents and beauty to help raise awareness for domestic violence through her work with the organization Sisters on the Runway. Artistic by nature, she was also an assistant at a local art studio.
Investigators have not offered any explanation for why Juengling was on the tracks that early morning.
None of the 10 passengers or crew members on the eastbound train, heading from Montclair State University to New York’s Penn Station, were injured.
“Despite her incredible natural beauty, Joan was remarkably approachable. She lit up any room – or runway – she graced, and had the rare talent of connecting in a genuine and real way with everyone she met,” Sisters on the Runway said in a statement. “Joan’s soul is adventurous and determined. We know she will create new experiences and connections in her next journey.”
Sisters on the Runway began as a student group at Montclair High School. The group now has chapters at different colleges and universities, such as the University of Massachusetts.
In her work with Sisters on the Runway, Juengling was a coach and mentor to other students who were new to modeling.
Jillian Keats remembered Juengling from a day they spent doing a photo shoot at Keats’s Newark art studio. “Joan had pretty impeccable style and would jump from one look to the next, embodying a totally different mood with each wardrobe change. We explored the building for different backdrops, and at one point she climbed and sat in a window about 12 feet off the ground, while I dangled off a ladder to photograph her. She always seemed fearless and energetic like that, had so much potential.”
Juengling graduated from Montclair High School in 2008. She then attended the Eastwick College in Nutley and the William Esper School of Drama in New York.
Juengling worked as a manager at Dirt and Noise, a children’s clothing shop on Church Street, up until the store closed its physical location in August. Prior to that, she worked at Dot Reeder on Watchung Plaza.
Within hours of Juengling’s death, friends took to social media to remember her. Dirt and Noise posted a tribute to Juengling on its Facebook page: a photo of Juengling, accompanied by the lyrics from the Tom Petty song “Wildflowers.”
Visitation for Juengling was to be held on Tuesday at Bizub-Quinlan Funeral Home in Clifton.
Since 2011, there have been 19 trespasser (anyone other than an authorized railroad employee, or a passenger on a designated station platform) fatalities on NJ Transit property in Essex County, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Along with Juengling’s death, there have been at least five trespasser fatalities in Montclair since 2002. Four of those fatalities took place in the vicinity of the Watchung Avenue train station, and of those four, three took place during the nighttime or predawn hours.
There is a slight bend in the tracks just west of the station, as the tracks head northwest toward Upper Montclair and Montclair State University.
In 2002, a Montclair High School student died while walking along the tracks near the Watchung Avenue station with friends. According to news reports, the male student was struck and killed sometime around 9 p.m. while helping a girl off the tracks after she was unable to move.
An 18-year-old Montclair High School student died in 2013 after being struck by a train near the Watchung Avenue train station. Witnesses told police that the student had climbed up an embankment at 11 a.m., stepped onto the tracks, positioned himself in front of an oncoming train and made no attempt to move.
In 2015, a 61-year-old Livingston woman died when a train struck her near Watchung Avenue, just after 5:25 p.m. on Jan. 5 of that year.
A 58-year-old Montclair man died after being struck by a train at the Mountain Avenue train station in January 2011 around 3:20 p.m.
According to news reports at the time, train crews told authorities that the man had stepped onto the tracks and made no obvious attempt to move.
There are some fences and walls along the tracks near train stations in Montclair, but no fencing along much of the route going through the town.
NJ Transit has placed warning signs at the ends of streets that run close to the tracks, including at breaks in the trees that lead to the tracks.