Naperville dance school mourning teacher

  • Katie Lunn

    Katie Lunn

Published: 4/17/2010 12:50 PM | Updated: 4/17/2010 8:04 PM

Katie Lunn had a passion for teaching kids to dance and a smile that could light up any room.

Friends and co-workers say she put both of those to great use as a dance instructor and manager at the School of Performing Arts in Naperville.

"It's just unbelievable how many lives she's touched here at the school," Joni Wiltz Berkley, the school's managing director, said Saturday. "She was the light of this organization."

Lunn, 26, was killed Friday night when her SUV was struck by northbound Amtrak train No. 392 in University Park, a suburb southwest of Chicago.

University Park police are investigating the incident but could not be reached for comment.

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said the accident occurred at 9:40 p.m. at the Stuenkel Road crossing. The crossing has lights and gates, she said.

No injuries were reported to any of the train's crew or 155 passengers. It was able to resume its trip at 11:50 p.m.

Wiltz Berkley said a parent of one of the school's students witnessed the crash but didn't realize it was Lunn's vehicle at the time. The parent said it appeared the SUV got stuck between the tracks and the train seemed to come out of nowhere.

Nearly four dozen of Lunn's students had performed Friday night at the American Dance Awards at Governors State University. Their Saturday performances were canceled.

Wiltz Berkley said many of the students were gathering at friends' houses Saturday to remember their teacher. She said classes at the Naperville school were continuing and students were being urged to come in and spend time with each other.

School officials are making plans to help students cope with the loss and for a memorial service.

"Katie was a very popular teacher here at the school," Wiltz Berkley said. "Her passion was to teach kids how to dance."

Lunn, who lived in Chicago and has family in Iowa, taught youngsters everything from jazz and tap to ballet and hip-hop. She began teaching at the school five or six years ago and worked with students ranging in age from 3 to 18.

"She was a friend, a colleague and a peer," Wiltz Berkley said. "She walked into the school every day with a huge smile on her face. She would light up the entire room.

"First and foremost I'm going to remember her smile," she said. "I'll remember what a big cheerleader she was for her kids and how she loved her kids."

A woman who answered the phone at Lunn's parents' house in Manson, Iowa, declined comment.

Lunn was a graduate of Oklahoma City University where she received a degree in dance management, according to the school's Web site. She had danced for the American Spirit Dance Company and the Oklahoma City University Pep Dancers. She also danced professionally and did choreography work for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz Arena Football Dance Team.