ST. ALBANS – Brianna Margaret Ritchie, a longtime area resident, passed away Sunday, February 16, 2020, of an accidental overdose after a long and brave battle with addiction.

Born in Burlington on January 26, 1995, she was the daughter of Kelly Lynn (Erno) Benoit and the late Donald Charles Ritchie. Brianna was 25 years old.

Brianna received her High School Diploma in Orange Park, Fla. She was active in sports, ranging from the soccer field, to the basketball courts, and even softball. She was an avid fan of the Boston Celtics, with her favorite player being Rajon Rondo.

Survivors include her son, Zavian Marquez “Junie” Paschal, Jr.; her mother, Kelly Benoit and husband, Jason and siblings, Ricky Raymond Rich, Brittany Marie Ritchie, Kiara Biggs and Jada Biggs.

Brianna is also survived by her maternal grandmother, Margaret Erno, aunt and uncle, Kim and Todd Nelson, as well as cousins, Victoria, Jarrett and Jake Nelson, a niece and nephew, Grace and Hunter Iachetta, and Uncle Edward Ritchie. She also leaves behind many aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family as well as a special friend to her and her family, Katie “G”.

In addition to her father, Donald, who predeceased her on January 7, 2019, Brianna was pre-deceased by her maternal grandfather, Walter “Joe” Erno on November 7, 2019, and paternal grandparents, Eleanor and Robert Ritchie.

Brianna’s greatest joy in life was her son Junie. We’re so grateful she was able to experience motherhood and the unconditional love between a mother and a child. She was so proud to be his mom. Brianna wanted to live more than anything. She wanted her life to be her own again. She had relapsed and like so many who fight addiction never thought it would take her life, but couldn’t break the chains that had plagued her. She often spoke of how she wished she could travel back in time and never experimented as a youth. She could not foresee the future and never expected to battle addiction, as no person ever wants or plans to become an addict.

She was a bright, beautiful child who had dreams and aspirations just like her peers. Our family’s hope is for everyone to understand that addiction doesn’t discriminate, once it takes hold of a being, it will destroy every person in its path, including the families and people who love them. We hope the stigmas around addiction will come to an end, where more spaces can be created to have open and honest conversations of how to combat and support those who are struggling with addiction. We hope that those struggling will reach out today, because tomorrow is not promised. We hope those who are curious to experiment with drugs will choose life, and understand regardless of whatever they’ve heard about the promise of drugs and the high, don’t fall victim to the façade of addiction. Drugs will not heal, or help, they only possess; taking your soul, your body, your mind, your family, you’re loved ones, and finally your life.

Brianna’s family would like to thank the many agencies that gave support to her and her family during the many years of her illness. Special heartfelt thanks to “R.K.” for all the support of the entire family over the last two years.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend calling hours on Monday, February 24, 2020, from Noon to 2:00 p.m. at the Heald Funeral Home, 87 South Main Street followed by a funeral service at 2:00 p.m. with Pastor Roland Ludlam officiating. Prayers of committal and interment will be held at the same time as Joe Erno’s later this spring in Sanderson Corners Cemetery in Fairfax.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Lund, P.O. Box 4009, Burlington, Vermont 05406-4009 (https://lundvt.org) or Valley Vista, 23 Upper Plain, Bradford, Vermont 05033 (https://vvista.net).

To send Brianna’s family a message of condolence or share a memory, kindly go to her online guest book at www.healdfuneralhome.com.

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