Whether it was her beautiful voice, her contagious smile or her friendly personality, Kate Sweely touched everyone she met.
Her death on Saturday after a short illness has left her Cape St. Claire neighbors, her high school friends and her college community shocked and completely saddened. She was 20.
Sweely, daughter of Lori and Doug and sister to Kurt, was a 2009 graduate of (BHS) where she was known for both her extraordinary academic achievement, particularly in science, and her proven musical talent.
“She was such a popular and active kid in the music department,” said Sandra Balderson, BHS music department chair. “She helped with the musicals and actually acted as the stage manager in a ton of shows at Broadneck. She was active in chorus and just one of those kids who brightened everyone’s life.”
Sweely’s talents were merged with her deep spiritual beliefs, and she was active in the youth and music programs at Calvary United Methodist Church in Annapolis where she was lead vocalist in the Calvary Youth Praise Band.
Her interest in science led to her going to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Ashville with a major in atmospheric science and mathematics. This summer, Sweely was serving as an intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in a study on cloud formation and their impact on climate.
Sweely, a Girl Scout Gold Star awardee, served as a missionary last year with the North American Mission Board in Kiana, AK, where she was a vacation Bible school director, worship leader and youth minister. She was the president of the Baptist Student Union at UNC Ashville this past year. She also had traveled to New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup.
Sweely’s Facebook page already is full of comments and memories from friends and loved ones. (Her sweet nature even led to a separate group Facebook page titled “Kate Sweely is Totally My Best Friend.”) The guestbook of the George P. Kalas Funeral Home also is filled with condolences and loving remembrances of Sweely.
Sweely’s first grade teacher Linda Herzig's message read, “I taught you in first grade and you were one of those students a teacher never forgets. You were vivacious and an inspiration to all. Your spirit will live on in all the lives that you touched.”
Former chorus teacher Amanda Ostrusky said, “Thank you for having such an impact on my life and making me LOVE teaching music and singing even more. Please sing your angelic song up in heaven. I will see you later and then maybe we can sing a duet together.”
A celebration of Sweely's life will take place July 16 at 11 a.m. at Calvary Methodist on Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis. The family requests that uplifting colors be worn, especially something purple, which was Sweely's favorite.
In lieu of flowers, a scholarship fund will be set up through UNC Asheville. More details will follow in the coming days.
Update: The Sweely family has provided the following information regarding donations in Kate's memory:
- For those interested in honoring her love of understanding and knowledge, donations can be made directly to: UNC Asheville Foundation, ATTN: Kate Sweely Endowed Scholarship, 312 Owen Hall CPO 1800, UNC Asheville, One University Heights, Asheville, NC 28804
- and those wishing to support her love of mission work can make donations to: Calvary United Methodist Church, ATTN: Kate Sweely Mission Memorial Fund, 301 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, MD 21401 (Please note for Kate Sweely Mission Fund.)