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South Royalton Mourns Death of Young Teacher

Northfield’'s Kelly McLennan, left, bumps South Royalton’'s Jen Kinnarney off the ball during a Sept. 4, 2008, game. (Valley News - Jason Johns)

Northfield’'s Kelly McLennan, left, bumps South Royalton’'s Jen Kinnarney off the ball during a Sept. 4, 2008, game. (Valley News - Jason Johns) Purchase photo reprints »

South Royalton — The South Royalton community this week is mourning the death of a 20-year-old preschool teacher who died on Sunday following an accident involving an all-terrain vehicle.

Jennifer Kinnarney, a 2012 graduate of South Royalton High School, died at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center after sustaining injuries the previous day in an ATV accident.

Authorities said the accident occurred in a wooded area near Ward Hill Road in Tunbridge when the ATV being driven by Anthony Potwin rolled over. Kinnarney was not wearing a helmet. State police are investigating.

Kinnarney, who played soccer, basketball and softball in high school, had been working with children for the past two years at Magic Mountain Children’s Center in South Royalton.

“Jen was really good at wandering around the playground and engaging with different groups of kids. She would bury her feet in the sand and run through the sprinklers. She was full of life, a wild child,” said Roxanne Benson, director of the children’s center.

Kinnarney began working at the children’s center as a substitute teacher, and eventually took a full-time position working with infants. She earned a child development associate degree and began working in the preschool, where “she was excited to take what she had learned and work on our curriculum,” Benson said.

“She was a sponge for information and really loved learning,” Benson said. “She was also a beautiful, beautiful girl.”

Kinnarney grew up in South Royalton and was a regular at RB’s Deli. Daisy Salls, the deli’s manager, set up a collection box near the cash register of the business to help Kinnarney’s parents, Jim and Gloria. The Kinnarneys were not available for comment.

“I set it up to help with funeral costs,” Salls said. “I also put out a couple of cards that people can sign. People often forget about those kinds of little things. It seems like Jim and Gloria can never catch a break. Their house burned down a couple of years ago, and they’re such hardworking people. I want them to know how much they’re loved in the community.”

Salls said Royalton was reacting as a small town should with the death of one of its own.

Kinnarney loved the outdoors, especially fishing and being in the woods.

“Jen always wanted to see the ocean, but she never got to go,” Benson said. Benson and her co-workers at the children’s center had planned to take her to the beach this summer.

Kinnarney lived with her boyfriend, A.J. Potwin, her brother Joe Kinnarney and her nephew Erik Kinnarney. She was especially close with her young nephew.

“She talked about Erik constantly,” Benson said. “They were so close. Jen adored him and wanted him to have the greatest life possible.”

According to Benson, Kinnarney was on the verge of independence as an adult. “She was working on getting her life together as a young woman,” Benson said. “She was getting her driver’s license and moving into a new apartment with her boyfriend. I was proud of her, and she was very proud of herself.”

Calling hours for Kinnarney will be held on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Boardway & Cilley Funeral Home in Chelsea, with a funeral service to be held Friday at 1 p.m. at Branch View Cemetery in South Royalton.

Lauren Bender can be reached at lbender@vnews.com .