The people who make up PLNU intend for this to be a place where both celebrating and mourning can happen freely, so that those experiencing either would be supported, comforted, and not left to do so alone. For those in mourning, shared community is a necessity, especially when a loss is felt so widely.
Oct. 11, 2015 was a day that marked a deep loss for the PLNU community. It was the day freshman Isabella “Izzy” Ofsanko died in a car accident—a day that forever altered the lives of many.
PLNU was Izzy’s second home, and the impact she had on campus and in the lives of those she lived among and loved was tremendous. Buses full of students and staff members went to her memorial service, held in Palos Verdes, Calif. Written prayers and notes of love were created for Izzy by students across campus and placed at a memorial site in Klassen Hall, across doors in the halls, and in the entryway of Nicholson Commons along with photos and sketches of her. Gatherings took place among friends to remember Izzy, and the joy and light she constantly poured out.
Friends continued to show their love for Izzy through the kindness and care they showed her family. When Izzy’s father, John Ofsanko, came to campus to pick up Izzy’s things, he was met outside by Cat Sales, then resident director of Klassen. Many individuals had cleared out of the hall to give Izzy’s family time to gather her things and to not interfere.
“It was so sad and such a huge sorrow,” he said. “When I got to her floor, I was overwhelmed with emotion—all the walls on the 2nd floor of her residence hall were covered with notes to Izzy—honor notes. They were all filled with heartfelt words that expressed such deep feelings, and were directed toward Izzy. For me as her father, my life is forever changed, but then I read these stories from her hall mates. I really think Isabella was an angel who was here with us. This past October marked one year. I have no words. At times, I am without feelings, like a robot. What does a person do besides just live in this new reality?”
We gathered some words written recently by Izzy’s close friends and loved ones, to share with the PLNU community as we continue in mourning. May these continue to provide support and comfort, with the knowledge that she is in God’s arms, and continue to spread Izzy’s light and love.
“It has been over a year since Izzy left us and not a day goes by where I do not think about her or feel her presence. I believe that right there explains just how much she is missed and the impact she had on not just me, but many during her short life here on Earth.
Although I only got to know her for a couple of months, Izzy immediately became my friend and one of the people I found myself spending most of my time with. Izzy was the one I would look forward to seeing in our residence hall after class, practice, a long day, or when I was feeling homesick. I could always count on her for awesome snacks, a good laugh, a heart-to-heart, a vent session about a crazy class, and most of all, to get me out of my comfort zone and have fun. There was never a dull moment when I was around Izzy—from editing our papers together, random hall dance parties (and her making me dance, even though I am terrible), staying up all hours of the night, climbing palm trees on the way to the residence hall from the caf, to finding all the wonderful selfies she somehow snuck on my phone, she made me feel at home when I was so far away from it. She was my first friend at PLNU and reminded me everyday how lucky we were to be there.
That girl lived life to the fullest each and every day and was beautiful on the inside and out. I know I am only able to speak about my interactions with her or the ones I was able to observe or hear from others, but there is no doubt in my mind that she has left her mark here on Earth and I know for a fact that she has left her mark on PLNU and on me. Her light and smile will forever shine bright from up above and I can’t wait to see her again.” – Current student Taylor Petersen
“Izzy always looked for opportunities to uplift, compliment, and bless people. She would come in my room and give me this special candy that her mom bought for her because she knew I liked them. She would tell me how much she enjoyed when I played guitar. She never failed to make a person feel as if he or she was the most important person in the world. She was hilarious and had the best sense of humor, and was always cracking a joke or making a clever comment just where it was needed.
In all of this, I could never imagine her hurting anyone. Her constant mission was to seek out those who were discarded and bring them in, to comfort those who were hurting, and to disrupt those who were living in their comfort zone by challenging them to step out into the world and experience adventures she knew would expand their characters. She was a developer of people, to say the least. Izzy was and still is absolutely beautiful in every way. I loved her dearly when I had the chance to be with her in person, and I love her dearly now as I sense her undying spirit in the beauty and life all around me. She lived out the love and calling of Jesus in the most real and tangible way.” – Current student Tierra Teter (Izzy’s R.A.)
“I remember seeing Izzy for the first time on our hall and I immediately knew there was something special about her. Every time I walked past her room, she would smile and say “hi” to me, and my roommate and I always talked about how badly we wanted to be friends with her. She was one of the first girls to share her story in alpha groups. I gained so much respect for Izzy the night she shared because she was so honest about what she had struggled with in the past. I looked up to her so much and I admired how brave she was. One night, Izzy could tell that a lot of girls on our hall were stressed, so she brought out her speaker and stuck it to the glass case that held the fire extinguisher, and blasted her music and started dancing. This was early on into the school year, and I remember it being a night that brought all of us so much closer. Izzy brought so much light to our hall. She was so authentic and so real with all of us; she helped a lot of girls open up and be themselves, too. Although I didn’t get to become as close to Izzy as I had hoped, she made such a huge impact on my life. I will never forget Izzy and the joy that she brought to the girls on our hall.” – Current student Lindsay Gates
“I remember her energy, her daring. I remember the day she got the idea to buy a skeleton to practice knowing what bones are where—and bought it that day. I remember her kindness to me, how she barely knew me and comforted me when my dog almost died. I remember how she was always laughing, always loud. She burned so brightly. I remember hearing her story in alpha groups while sitting in a circle of girls I hardly knew. She changed me. I can’t say we were close friends, but her memory is close to my heart.” – Current student Katherine Minyard
“Izzy always reminded us to be thankful for the life we have. She never complained, but instead expressed her gratitude for the life she had and the opportunities she was given. She saw God’s abundant goodness so clearly and helped others to recognize it as well.” – Current student Hope Richter
“I didn’t know Izzy personally because I transferred into school last spring semester, but everyone spoke so highly of her. They said she loved to have a good time and that she was extremely friendly. She had a beautiful smile, which I saw on the pictures of her placed around the hall. I know that if I had the pleasure of meeting Izzy, we would have been friends.” – Current student Mycaila Lyles
“Izzy was someone who helped me see the joy of life even during the difficult times. She had an unrelenting passion for life. I couldn’t help but feel better when I was around her.” – Current student Emily Cauwels
To honor her memory, Izzy’s family installed a bench at Klassen that provides a space at PLNU where students can enjoy the ocean view and reflect on the many joys of life. Everyone is invited to enjoy it and read about Izzy’s life on the bench plaque, which includes these beautiful words: “Izzy is proof that there are angels among us and continues to remind us that ‘LifeIzzBeautiful.’”