A life remembered

By on October 19, 2005

Katherine Vashon, a senior public relations and management major from Hermon, Maine, passed away early Friday, Oct. 14, of complications from leukemia at St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven.

Vashon, who went by “Katie,” was a devoted Red Sox fan, loved country music, and hoped to move down south one day. She was also a member of the sorority Phi Sigma Sigma and an employee of Athletics in the Sports Information Department for two years where she was recognized as the ‘most valuable player’ at the annual Athletics and Recreation Awards ceremony. She was also a member of the communications honors society, Lambda Pi Eta.

Danielle Turner, a senior sociology major, was her sorority sister, friend and roommate sophomore year.

“She was always so happy,” Turner said. “She was very selfless, always giving to others, and was absolutely obsessed with her little nephew Jack.”

Erin Fitzgibbons, a senior psychology major and president of Phi Sigma Sigma, agrees.

“Katie was the true definition of what a sister should be: always lending an ear, and always doing whatever she could to support her sisters and the Greek community,” she said.

Vashon served on Phi Sigma Sigma’s executive board for two years both as its Panhellenic delegate in 2004 and risk management delegate in 2005. In fact, before going to the emergency room for approximately 20 minutes on Monday, Oct. 10, she spent that last Sunday in the company of her sisters at their weekly chapter meeting.

“She was so excited because she had just saved up enough money to travel down to Texas for a job fair,” Turner said.

After being admitted, Vashon was released for two days before being re-admitted on Wednesday, Oct. 12. It was on Wednesday that she was diagnosed with stage three leukemia. While she was exploring options for treatment, Vashon went into a coma on Thursday and passed away at 7:15 p.m. Friday.

Her sorority sisters, friends, family, and members of the Quinnipiac community will remember Vashon fondly.

“We all have an angel by our side looking down on us from Heaven,” Fitzgibbons said.

The regular Sunday evening Catholic Mass was offered in Vashon’s honor with members of her sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, taking part in the service. Entering the gym, one could see the small tribute set up amidst candles which included a Boston Red Sox emblem, Vashon’s favorite baseball team. Several attendees wore Sox apparel in her memory.

Fr. Jonathan Kalisch led the packed service. In addition to the usual weekly crowd, Quinnipiac’s Greek life showed their support alongside many friends and family members. Two Phi Sig sisters presented the readings, unsuccessfully fighting back tears. Kalisch dealt with the crowd’s emotions in his homily.

He said that love is an essential part of human existence and, as a result, so is pain. “To truly love effectively means that when that love is taken away, by whatever means, we must feel pain,” Kalisch said. “The pain is a sign of the greater love that still continues.” He went on to say that Katie was looking down on those who mourn her and would be there to greet them in heaven.

Following Mass, a slideshow presented photographs and music that Vashon enjoyed. It included pictures of Vashon with her family, at Phi Sig gatherings, hanging out with friends, atop Sleeping Giant, exploring nature, cheering on the Sox and at formal affairs. The accompanying music was a selection of country and rock music, including “Sweet Caroline” and “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.”

The crowd reacted vocally throughout the show, commenting on everything from when Vashon was dressed up to when she was making faces at the camera. The photos showed the scope of Vashon’s personality while several quotes reminded onlookers of her brave spirit.

At the end of the slideshow, members of Phi Sig invited the whole crowd to gather in a circle for what they called an open ceremony. One sister read a story about a rose’s life cycle and significance. She said that every sister in the sorority was like a petal and together they were all connected to the stem of Phi Sig. She added that their rose was no longer complete at the loss of so integral a petal. Bette Midler’s song “The Rose” played, bringing crowd members to tears.

Several people went on to speak candidly about Vashon through poems and testimonials. Emotion choked their words, but could not diminish their significance.

Mike Kobylanski said that he hoped his future child would grow to be the person Vashon was, and that he would always think of her when watching baseball or keeping game scores.

One woman spoke of the recent week of intense rain. She said that when it began, it was as though the world knew that something bad was on its way. It was fitting that the rain stopped on Saturday, she continued, because Vashon was looking down and smiling at the world once more.

The service was visibly moving to all who were present. The impact of this loved young woman was evident as the crowds parted and people tried to find a way to carry on without her.

Her wake will be held this Thursday and the funeral will be held on Friday in Maine.

Updates have been made to this story so please be sure to read it carefully.


About Dana Owen Nancy Hall