Remembering Katie

Friends and family remember a student who loved bright colors, a good time and changing the worldAt her memorial on Nov. 19, Katie Bichsel’s friends talked of a girl who loved meatball subs, bright colors, catching bugs and most importantly, having a good time.Friends, family, faculty members and administration gathered at the Ira Allen Chapel to share in remembering Katie, a girl who touched many lives.Her friends wore neon clothing – a favorite of Katie’s – to the proceedings, which were lead by Reverend Harrison Heidel and included a slideshow compiled by Katie’s friends.Members of the University community spoke, including Joel Goldberg, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who was Katie’s academic adviser for the beginning of her UVM career.Several of her friends and housemates came to the podium to share memories of Katie when she was happy and bright.In the front of the chapel sat David and Vivian Bichsel, Katie’s parents.”Once you were Katie’s friend, you were always Katie’s friend,” Mrs. Bichsel said. “She was really kind, she was there for a lot of her friends even though she had deep needs herself.””She wanted to help people,” she said. “She talked all the time about going into the Peace Corps.”Mrs. Bichsel said that Katie was known for her taste in bright neon outfits and large sunglasses.”If everybody looked through her glasses and saw the way she saws things, the world would be a different place,” she said.For her spring break last year, Katie traveled to Ecuador with the non-profit organization MEDlife; something her mother said made a lasting impact on Katie.Mrs. Bichsel said this was an organization Katie was incredibly enthusiastic about, as she helped establish a MEDlife chapter at UVM.The family has chosen to establish a fund in Katie’s name through MEDlife, which seeks to improve access to medicine, education and community development for poor communities.Julie Devine, a junior who was close friends and housemates with Katie, said that she was really fun, made you laugh and was always there to listen.”She really valued friendships,” Devine said. “Its still not fully real to me that’s she’s gone.”Mima Wellington, a junior at UVM, met Katie as a freshman when they lived on the same floor together in Wills.”Everyone knew who she was,” she said. “She can make anyone laugh.”Mrs. Bichsel said she was very appreciative of the way the University has handled Katie’s passing.She said that family friend and Director of Admissions Beth Wiser, as well as Assistant Vice President for Student and Campus Life Annie Stevens ,had been very helpful to the family.Katie killed herself on Nov. 6, her mother said.Mrs. Bichsel said she hoped that students in a similar situation to Katie’s would understand you have to get help besides your friends.”It’s great to have friends, but you have to count on people who have professional experience for this,” she said.