MOUNT AIRY Carol Ambruster's lifelong dedication to gazing at the heavens helped members of her congregation choose the perfect biblical verse to remember her life: a line in Genesis that likens the multitudes of the Jewish community to the stars in the sky.
Congregants who gathered Monday to remember Ambruster, a retired Villanova University astronomy professor who was stabbed to death last week, sang at the conclusion of a memorial service, "May you join the stars in the heavens."
Rabbi Marcia Prager, of Ambruster's congregation P'nai Or in Mount Airy, opened the service with another song, one that reminded some mourners of the 69-year-old researcher's death: "Teach us to treasure each day."
Ambruster was found dead in her Germantown apartment, a knife protruding from her neck. Police continue to investigate the killing, which they say followed a violent struggle.
On Monday, more than 30 people, including many of her Villanova colleagues, paid tribute to her memory.
Kenneth Ambruster, a cousin, fondly recalled her love of birdwatching and her care for her cats. Her sister, Ariel Ambruster, spoke of the sacrifices she made to care for their father when he was losing his sight.
Daniel Sapon, her roommate, described Ambruster's penchant for collecting everything from antique bottles to Native American art, and her keen intelligence, which he said he observed when they first met at the University of Pennsylvania and again when they reconnected about 30 years later.
"She was a true intellectual. She was someone who lived in a world of ideas. I treasured that about her," Sapon said. "She was compassionate. She was kindly. She was sensitive."
Elizabeth Jewell, Ambruster's closest friend at Villanova, spoke of the compassion that Ambruster showed for her students. "Students would enter her office to discuss their grades and exit having exposed their innermost sorrows," she said.
David Carroll was one beneficiary of that attention. He said he met Ambruster more than 30 years ago, when, at age 14, he volunteered at the Franklin Institute to learn about astronomy. Ambruster mentored him through his college astronomy degree and gave him career advice as he entered other fields, including law enforcement and government service.
"She took me under her wings," Carroll said. "I am who I am and what I am and what I have accomplished today because of Carol."
A friend in Tennessee who could not attend the funeral wrote a letter to Ambruster, her friend of a half-century, which Jewell read aloud.
"You became the sister I never had. We shared 50 years of unconditional friendship and love," the friend wrote. "I don't think I ever told you how much I've admired your determination, your strength, your will to follow your star."