Community Remembers Life of Andreas Justesen

The recent death of UVM senior Andreas Justesen has caused many in the community to reflect on their own lives. The death of any loved one can bring us to the unwelcome realization that all of our lives will end at some point. The life of Andreas, however, serves as an especially strong lesson for all of us to live for every moment and take advantage of every opportunity that comes before us. A.J., as he is better known, knew that Burlington was where he wanted to be from a young age. He loved the outdoors, and never passed up an opportunity to go hiking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, or snowboarding. A.J. was constantly on the go, planning his next adventure or meeting new people. “He was quite the motivator for us, his friends,” recalls Graham Ollard, one of A.J.’s closest friends and a fellow Lambda Iota fraternity brother. “He was the one who really wanted to get us off our asses, get out and go places.” Ollard met A.J. on the first day of freshman year. They soon became close friends, and found themselves going on hikes, trips, and concert tours. “I’m from Tennessee, so this was kind of a strange place to be when I first came to school here,” says Ollard. “A.J.’s the one who showed me the Northeast region. He’s the one who helped me fit in, feel comfortable so far from home.” A.J. was also passionate about music. He often traveled long distances to see a band that he loved, and his enthusiasm rubbed off on his friends. He and Ollard went to see every Yonder Mountain String Band show that they possibly could in the northeast. They also traveled to Oregon to see the band, and spent time there hiking and camping. Andreas had an insatiable curiosity that truly defined him. He loved to learn about the world and all types of people. He traveled to India, Spain, and Switzerland, always meeting new people and making new friends. A.J.’s dad moved to Europe when he was young, and he was suddenly thrust into a position of household leadership. He quickly learned about responsibility and helped his mom look after his two younger sisters. He frequently went on long walks on the beach with his mom, and she came to rely heavily on his support and companionship. “He loved his family,” says Ollard with a reminiscent smile. “They were really, really close. He talked the world about his family and his little sister Lizzy.” Senior Trina Sams was A.J.’s girlfriend of a year and a half. She recalls how important A.J. was to so many people. “He really had such a large number of friends that were all his best friends. Each friendship was unique, and he cherished every one. If you were his friend it was because he really, really appreciated your friendship and liked you as a person.” A.J. was truly a people person, and was always on the move. His kind heart and inquisitive nature produced a friend that many people relied on through difficult times. “He was really sensitive and compassionate,” says A.J.’s sister Kristina. “One of my friends passed away three weeks ago, and he [A.J.] was great with me. He really helped me through that.” Ever since high school, “Dre,” as his hometown buddies called him, was someone people looked up to. His laid back attitude and love of life made him a great friend to his peers and a role model for anyone who knew him. The sheer number of people that his life touched was made evident by the hundreds of people from around the country and around the world who came to his wake. Everyone that knew him will have an everlasting memory of all the things that made A.J. who he was. There is no single moment that defines him; rather, the way he treated people every day accounts for how he will be remembered. Kristina Justesen recalls her fondest memories of A.J. as, “just being around him, not a particular moment, just all the little things. Just talking in the car. Just goofing around, his silly little half smile…They were all good memories. He was always smiling.” Andreas Justesen’s life is truly a model. Even those who only had the privilege of meeting him once could sense the immense love of life that A.J. possessed. “Life is really important from moment to moment,” professes Trina Sams with regards to what can be learned from A.J.’s life. “Make the decisions that you want to make while you’re young as much as possible, so that when you die you’ve done as much as you possibly could have. And he did that, very much so. A.J. did everything he ever wanted to do. He went everywhere he had the opportunity to go.” Despite the unspeakable tragedy of A.J.’s death, solace is found in the fact that all memories of his life are so positive and uplifting. Kristina Justesen reflects on how A.J. will be remembered to her, and undoubtedly to so many others: “I don’t have any bad memories, don’t have any regrets….He’s someone that you meet and remember. He leaves an impression…He was a brother, a son, and a boyfriend. He never did anything to hurt anybody. He was a genuinely sweet, sweet guy.”