By Nicole Itano
YDN Staff Reporter
Joseph Bookstaber of Saybrook College died last Friday in a bicycling accident while serving a two-year mission assignment in Northern Thailand for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A native of Short Hills, NJ and a graduate of Millburn High School, Bookstaber was sideswiped by a car while riding his bicycle on the main road of the small town Chang Rae. He suffered severe injuries and died several hours later in a Thai hospital.
Bookstaber, who lived in Lanman-Wright Hall last year as a Saybrook freshman, withdrew from Yale to spend two years as a missionary in Thailand. He planned to return to New Haven when he had finished his term in Asia.
"We're all shocked," Saybrook Master Antonio Lasaga said. "Joe was a very well liked student."
Friends at Yale described Bookstaber as an optimistic and enthusiastic person.
"He was just really excited, really in love with life and with everyone," said Eddie Daniels '00, a former roommate of Bookstaber. "My enduring image of Joe is as this huge smiling face in the middle of everything."
Bookstaber was a member of the Tory party, an avid pianist who often played for his classmates in the Saybrook common room, and a math and physics enthusiast. In high school, in addition to his music, Bookstaber was an Eagle Scout, a member of the Quiz Bowl and Science Bowl teams.
"At home, when possible, he would spend an entire day at the piano," said David Bookstaber '99, Joseph Bookstaber's older brother.
Bookstaber was excited about his mission assignment, friends said.
"He really became quite sincere about his duties as a Mormon," Daniels said. "The letters we received from him were very positive."
Beginning in July, Bookstaber spent two months training for his mission and learning to speak Thai. His work in Thailand included teaching about his church, community service, and leading the local church community.
"It's a tragic thing certainly to lose a missionary and a classmate," said Scott Strobel, the president of the Yale branch of the Church of Latter-day Saints. "But the message he was carrying to the people of Thailand was a message of hope ... It's a message that really gives us strength as we deal with this."
Bookstaber is survived by his parents Richard and Pamela Bookstaber, four younger siblings, and an older brother David Bookstaber.
Lasaga said the college will hold a memorial service in Bookstaber's honor.