Friends and family hope that Laurie Mandara has finally reached her own strawberry fields. The senior psychology major and Beatles fan passed away Sept. 29 after a lengthy battle with lymphoma.
Laurie was an active student on campus, participating in the Student Government Association, where she was named Senator of the Year in 2005, Psi Chi psychology honor society and Psychology Club. She was also named to the Dean’s List numerous times.
Simply, say her friends, Laurie was an amazing girl. She was filled with warmth, love and a zest for life, despite the sobering reality of her disease.
“She was so strong and brave,” her twin sister Allison Mandara, senior communication studies and business administration major, said.
“I just can’t overemphasize how positive and thoughtful she was,” Joe Alario, senior biology major, said.
When describing her, friends stressed her permanently positive attitude, her sense of fun and spontaneity, her ambition, love of family and beaming smile.
“I wouldn’t define Laurie as your typical college girl,” Colleen Deluca, senior elementary education/psychology major, said. “There was something that was so different and special about her.”
She was quirky, once desiring to dye her hair blue, and was constantly planning parties, like the mustache-theme party she organized this past summer. She was a music aficionado who was once a member of Weezer’s street team and enjoyed introducing friends to new artists.
Mandara loved dressing stylishly, often in clothes from Urban Outfitters, as well as gulping massive amounts of coffee and Thai Kitchen Bowls, which former suitemates Brittany Graf, senior women and gender studies and biology major, and Kristin Healey, senior psychology and sociology major, described as “constantly stinking up the room.”
She was ambitious, taking 20 credits one semester, and even when doctors told her she only had a few weeks left, she decided she wanted to become a speech pathologist so she could always help people.
Karen Howe and Betsy Ruddy, professors of psychology, worked on independent studies with Mandara after her diagnosis.
“It was a pleasure to work with Laurie and she was a wonderful student,” Ruddy said. “It was clear that she loved learning in general, and in particular, learning about psychology.”
Howe added, “I can see her standing in my office doorway, with a brightly colored cap and a joyful smile. The teachers and students who knew Laurie in the psychology department will never forget her.”
Her academic zeal crossed over to the world of running, with Mandara participating in the 2004 Boston Marathon. She was an avid cross country runner in high school and trained vigorously for the months preceding the marathon, without ever uttering a word of complaint.
The Mandara twins enjoyed a close-knit relationship between themselves, as well as with their entire family.
“They were the closest twins I’d ever met,” Graf said. “They didn’t bicker or get jealous of each other.”
Mandara called home almost every day to talk to her family, and she and her sister traveled home to Paramus at least once a month to visit family and her beloved dog Kirby.
“Some people think of heaven as a beautiful place high up in the clouds,” Paul Carcich, senior mechanical engineering major, said. “I think for Laurie, heaven is sitting on the couch in the living room with the rest of her family, hanging out and doing nothing.”
When Mandara grew too ill to attend classes, she instead made crafts for her family and friends – belts, decoupage boxes and picture frames.
“It was like she wanted to give us something to remember her by,” Allison said, highlighting her sister’s constant concern for others and inherent selflessness.
“Even in the last days, when we were in the hospital, she was more concerned with how comfortable everyone else was,” Allison said. “Near the end, when she was barely breathing, she gave us all a big smile to reassure us and let us know she was happy.”
Her friends have tried to remain positive in the days following her death, remembering with laughter and warmth the girl who would wake up at 6 a.m. to do her laundry before the machines filled up, who nonchalantly picked herself up after tumbling off the treadmill at the gym and who taught them how to toast cookies in Eickhoff.
Before her death, Mandara wrote in her journal, “I still have faith in God and know that he has a plan for me, whether it’s here on Earth or up in heaven. I know I would be sorely missed on Earth by my family and friends, but I would watch down on them and be a guardian angel.”