Diet Coke 'angel': Yeardley Love made a big impression
On May 23, 22-year-old Yeardley Love should have had every right to be celebrating her college graduation with her family and friends, her sorority sisters in Kappa Alpha Theta, and her UVA women's lacrosse teammates.
Instead, sometime before then, those who knew Love will gather for a funeral of the young woman whose friends have described her as an "angel" and who achieved her dream of joining the UVA women's lacrosse team–– playing in 15 games this season–- only to have her life ended in what now appears to be a terrifying act of violence.
"I remember when you were my counselor a few years ago, that smile was absolutely contagious," wrote one poster on a memorial Facebook site, which had gathered more than 12,000 fans one day after her May 3 death.
"She was truly an angel on earth," writes Jennifer Blair, who taught Love when she was in middle school at Notre Dame Academy in Towson, Maryland, where Love would later be an All American whose goal was to attend UVA.
During the current season's game against Loyola, Love earned the thrill of causing her opponents to commit two turnovers, according to Virginiasports.com.
"I had wanted to play lacrosse at Virginia since I was little," Love said in a 2009 interview on Virginiasports.com, "so coming here was like a dream come true."
Many of those closest to Love have remained silent and cloistered in the day since her death, choosing not to discuss the case or publicly share their memories of their friend.
"We are in a state of mourning, and for the respect and privacy of Yeardley and her family are not ready to comment further on the situation," wrote Courtney Schaefer, president of Kappa Alpha Theta, of which Yeardley was a member.
According to one student athlete, the media frenzy over the killing has become so hot that University officials have instructed members of various sports teams to refrain not only from making any public comments about the case or their friends, but even from accepting new friends on social networking sites such as Facebook.
But if her teammates aren't sharing memories, those who taught Love both in high school and in college recall a bright and motivated student.
"Yeardley was an outstanding young lady–- delightful, friendly, and happy," writes the headmistress of Notre Dame Prep, Sister Patricia McCarron. "She readily shared her many talents with our community–- as a student in the classroom, as a standout athlete on the field hockey and lacrosse fields, as a caring citizen through her service work. Yeardley was, is, and always will be one of Ã¢â?¬Ë?our girls.’"
And a professor in UVA's political science department–- Love's major–- says that even in a class of 250, she made an impression.
"She seemed like a very bright, dynamic, energetic young woman," says the professor, Bill Quandt, who taught Love in a middle eastern politics course. "She exuded self-confidence," he says. "It's a tragedy when someone loses their life at an early age, but with this kind of potential going for her, it struck me as particularly deep loss."
Even those who didn't know Love well recalled her with fondness.
"She couldn't be nicer, more pleasant, outgoing," says Chaney Kent, owner of the Corner Market on University Avenue, where Love would visit a couple of times each week, always for a 12-ounce can of Diet Coke. "When a girl has a name like 'Love,' you don't forget," says Kent, adding that he was surprised that his petite customer was a collegiate athlete.
Despite her gregarious nature, however, many of the students living in and around her apartment building at 222 14th Street say they had never met Love and had no knowledge anything had happened that night.
“No, we don’t know anything,” said one neighbor in a flat tone, before closing the door in a reporter's face. “We’re graduate students, so we don’t really keep up with the undergraduate scene," said another resident.
But Rolfe Garcia, a 22-year old second-year, says he was still up studying early Monday morning when he heard a woman "weeping and sobbing loudly outside the apartment building."
Garcia saw flashing lights but didn't learn the reason for the police response until after his morning classes.
"It's completely shocking," he says.