“100 percent Colleen”

Friends and faculty reflect on the life of Colleen Zirkle, ’16

By Stephanie Weaver  |  Photos by Nick Alexopulos, '03

As the Loyola community grieves the death of Colleen Zirkle, ’16, Loyola magazine asked members of the campus community to share their memories, reflections, and thoughts on her life. Zirkle died in a weather-related car accident in Colorado on Dec. 26.

The Loyola community celebrated Colleen’s life at a vigil on Jan. 13. Those who attended were invited to write a prayer or message in Colleen’s memory. Campus Ministry collected the messages and will compile them into a scrapbook that will be presented to Colleen’s family at a memorial Mass held in her memory on campus.

The Mass will be on Sunday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Chapel. All are welcome to attend.

Colleen and I worked together in our free time to develop a DJ show at WLOY. As we prepared and planned for the show in the earlier days, Colleen suggested we named the show “Good Vibrations.” She thought the world—and she herselfcould use a little more good and a lot less bad. So we proceeded, as it was her wish, to play nothing but feel-good, positive songs to ready-up listeners in their Saturday morning routines.

Colleen and I got to know one another over these songs. Soon we were spending every moment we could together watching movies, studying for History of Law, visiting the Farmers’ Market, going to Mass, preparing for RA and WLOY events, avoiding real clothes, bonding over food (specifically Caprese sandwiches, sugar cookies, cheddar pretzels, and grande blonde roasts).

However, Colleen and I spent most of our times daydreaming about the return of our friends abroad and reminiscing about the memories we had of them. We were there to accompany our loneliest of times.

Colleen inspired me to be my better self. We never really got too mushy over it, but I could tell that Colleen believed in me. Something about the way she looked at me made me feel incredible support. She made me believe I could do anything I set my mind to. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that with anyone before.

In our show, “Good Vibrations,” Colleen and I had a small talking segment called “Tell Me Something Good.” In her desire to promote goodness, Colleen would research current news for any positive and inspiring events that were trending at the time. After a few dance-to beats, I would interrupt the programming, look over my shoulder at Colleen, and ask: “Hey, DJ Coll! Tell me something good!” She always answered.

I keep asking now and although I cannot hear her answer so explicitly anymore, I’m positive a time will come where I will—where we all will. Yes, it feels a lot like she’s abroad herself now—I think my heart doesn’t have the strength to endure this truth: that the life of an angel was terminated in an innocent accident—but the truth is that she isn’t. She’s gone… but only until we join her. And then we shall celebrate all of the news updates we missed out on. Right, Coll? I leave it in your hands to help us all as you helped me once. You will be dearly missed. Thank you for everything. Everything.

—Patricia Bryan, 16

Colleen left too early and too suddenly. Just a week ago, she was celebrating Christmas with us. She was such fun—full of life and light. Colleen’s eyes twinkled when she smiled, and she smiled often. Her high spirits and kindness made life so much easier for rest of us. I know that she was a fantastic shift partner to Amanda Alston and a great resource for mothers and families at Mercy Medical Center’s emergency department. I got the impression that this was a year of self-discovery for Colleen—she narrowed down her career plans (optometry) and was getting ready to apply for a summer research grant to work with Weinberg Homeless Center.

I just looked through some of the pictures we took of this fall’s training. Colleen appeared in many of them, and she was always busy smiling and helping new advocates to catch up. We will miss her quick wit and great sense of humor, her cute laughter. She had her adorable way to make fun of herself, even though (and, perhaps because) she was probably the smartest of us. We were blessed to have her in our midst. The gift of her life will live through us as we gather back at Loyola and reach out to Baltimore together. Colleen is with God and at peace, watching over us; she will also always be in our hearts.

—Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, Ph.D., coordinator of health professions counseling
and affiliate assistant professor of theology

Colleen was a beautiful person inside and out. I am truly grateful to have had the pleasure of knowing her and to have her as a close friend.

Tim Farrell, ’16

Colleen,

Thank you for being an amazing shift partner and friend to me. You taught me the ropes and inspired me with your wisdom. You were constantly supportive of me and were always smiling, no matter what. I will treasure the time we have spent together this past semester. It was an honor to know you and work alongside you. In your honor, I promise to carry on your dedication through my work with Health Outreach Baltimore (HOB). May you rest in peace.

—Amanda Alston, 17

I am so grateful that Colleen was able to grace my life for the time that she did. Her memory will remain one of incredible beauty, joy, and light. She was so very kindhearted and charitable—her passion was inspirational.

—Amanda Guth, ’17

Amidst all this pain and shock, I am glad to have had the past three years with you. From freshman year crew practices and bio classes to a busy junior year with RA and HOB meetings, you have been a significant part of my time at Loyola. I never got the opportunity to thank you for all the laughs I shared with you, but please know I will carry your spirit with me and will never forget all of your hysterical snapchats. Rest in peace, Colleen. You will be dearly missed.

—Nicollette Ruiz, 16

Colleen, knowing you has been an absolute honor. Your smile and grace with everything you do brought happiness to the people around you. To our Health Leads/HOB family, I cannot begin to express how much your presence has made us better people. Your positivity and drive is contagious and made the people around you want to work harder. Thank you for everything you’ve done, my life is a better place because I was lucky enough to have you in it. May you rest in the sweetest peace, angel; we’ll never stop missing you.

Carmela Risquet, ’15

Colleen was truly a beautiful person inside and out and was very much loved by everyone in our HOB family. We will miss her smile and wisdom every day.

—Olivia Pelletier, ’15

You always have been and always will be an inspiration to me. You lived every day with happiness, and I always envied youfor even in your most stressful days, you somehow managed to be joyful. You were truly one of the most genuine people I have ever met. I will never forget our car rides to the hospital every week and spending every minute laughing as we tried to figure out the Baltimore radio stations. We never figured them out and we always ended up leaving some weird music or talk show on and then laughing about that. Your laugh was truly contagious as well as your kindheartedness. As I watched you work with your clients, you made me want to be a better person. You could do anything that you set your mind to and you were proving that with you passion towards your schoolwork. It angers me to see your life taken so soon, but I know that you lived each day to the highest potential. You touched the lives of so many people during your time. I will always cherish our memories together and I truly thank you for making me a better person. You will be missed by so many. May you rest in peace.

—Erica Hilton, ’16

I remember a conversation that Colleen and I had about identity. I opened up to her about how I was constantly surprising myself. I told her how I never knew how I’d react in a certain situation, or what I’d do in five years. Essentially, I told her that I’m not really sure who I am. I asked Colleen if she ever felt the same. Without any hesitation, Colleen said no. She told me that even as a child, she had always known who she was. Colleen’s answer did not surprise me at all. Colleen was 100 percent Colleen all the time. She was the most authentic person I had ever known. When my friends and I shared our favorite memories of Colleen with her friends from high school, the stories were obviously different but Colleen never was. We all recognized the same Colleen that we all knew and loved in every story. Colleen understood without judging; Colleen taught without lecturing;and most importantly, Colleen loved without expecting anything in return.

Kathryn O’Brien, ’16

Colleen Zirkle was my next-door neighbor freshman year at Loyola. We lived in a nook on the third floor of Hammerman, and that first weekend everyone moved in, Kat (my roommate) and I decided to leave our door open. As we met our new neighbors, I offered for anyone in our nook to use my Keurig throughout the semester, caffeine being a way of life for me. Colleen gleefully accepted my offer and began using my Keurig a few mornings a week. I never would have guessed that I would make one of my best friends in college from such a small shared interest as a love of coffee. Pretty soon she was scratching and meowing on our door in the morning waiting for Kat or I to let her in so she could make coffee…

While I could complain to her and she could complain to me forever about all the things we didn’t like or didn’t want to do, at the end of the day, she’d always convince me that there was a rhyme and a reason to get up and get going, even if the only reason was to let her in so we could enjoy a cup of coffee together. From that very first weekend Colleen entered my life, she became an important part of my college experienceand the woman I am growing into. I could not be luckier or more thankful that she decided to use my Keurig freshman year, and I thank God for our friendship forged through our shared caffeine addiction.

—Rachel Stoczko, ’16

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