Inside the University of Florida’s Reitz Union Monday night, a piano played, “Amazing Grace” was sang, and later, a candle procession outside went from the building to the UF Food Pantry, where Abby Dougherty volunteered.
All the while, family and friends cried, hugged and sometimes laughed during the ceremony of almost two hours that reflected on Dougherty’s life, which ended in an Oct. 28 bicycle accident in Gainesville. She was four days shy of her 21st birthday.
There are three take-aways from Dougherty’s life, said Ambre Hobson, assistant director of student success in UF’s Dean of Students Office: prioritize and make time for adventures, laugh it off, and find your passion.
“Abby was always seeking out ways to make the world a better place,” Hobson said.
Hobson was one of several UF employees who joined friends and family in speaking about Dougherty at the ceremony, which brought together more than 150 people in the Reitz Union’s Rion Ballroom.
Erin Park, Dougherty’s roommate of three years, wiped tears from her face throughout her full speech. Park said she and Dougherty were opposites on almost everything.
But “one thing we could always agree on were sunsets,” she said.
Dougherty’s aunt, Rosanne Cicanese, said she remembers taking Dougherty to her first Gator football game and how her niece embraced their trip Africa over the summer.
“Love just a little bit deeper for Abby,” she said to the crowd.
After spending some time as an undeclared student at UF, Dougherty decided on applied physiology and kinesiology.
She incorporated her love for the human body into the yoga classes she taught on campus through UF Rec Sports.
“Abby brought a lot of light to many of us,” said David Parrott, vice president of UF’s Student Affairs, who spoke on behalf of the university. “We can keep her spirit with us.”
The memorial started with a video montage of Dougherty’s life. It highlighted her love of the Gators, her family and her time in Africa.
Josie Ahlgren, Dougherty’s anatomy and physiology professor at UF, said she was a bright student with a passion for the major.
“I tell my students that sometimes there are no answers,” Ahlgren said. “Obviously, there is no earthly clue why Abby was taken from us so early.”
Friends who attended her yoga classes said she always put her heart and soul into teaching and really tried to embrace the philosophy of yoga.
“Yoga is what you make it, and for Abby, that was laughing while teaching,” said Kira Ben-Hamo, a group-fitness instructor for UF Rec Sports.
Those who spoke said Dougherty had a contagious laugh, and she could always be seen with a smile on her face.
“Abby laughed through it all,” said Chris Bell, a UF student and member of the group Campus Diplomats.
Also a member Campus Diplomats, Dougherty found her primary passion through the organization: working with the UF Food Pantry, which provides food for students in need.
“She wholeheartedly believed that every Gator counts,” said Alisa Fundora, a fellow campus diplomat.
Co-workers at the pantry said that no matter the time of day, Dougherty would usually be there with a cup of coffee in hand.
“Little did I know how much she would contribute to the pantry family,” said Christina Samper, a UF Food Pantry co-worker.
Once all the speakers finished, Joshua Pearsaul, a UF soloist, sang “Amazing Grace.” Friends and family then proceeded to the Reitz Union North Lawn for the candlelight processional to the Food Pantry.
In lieu of flowers, the Dougherty family asked that food donations be made to the pantry.
“She came into my life and fixed me,” Ditty Mahadevan, a close friend, said as he held back tears. “You are truly my angel, Abby.”