Campus mourns student

Deanna DiClemente, 21, a fourth-year BBA student at Wilfrid Laurier University, passed away Friday morning in a Hamilton hospital after a battle with leukemia.

DiClemente, who was first diagnosed last January with acute myeloid leukemia, received a successful bone marrow transplant from her sister in April but relapsed in July. She had been undergoing treatment in Seattle, Washington and returned to Ontario only a few weeks ago. Her parents and two younger sisters were with her at the time.

“We held our own vigil for Deanna Saturday night at our house,” one of DiClemente’s roommates Laura McMillan said. “We got all the students together that knew her and lit a bunch of candles and did a walk together to the Quad [on campus].” 75 or more people attended the campus vigil.

Heavily involved on campus in her time at Laurier, DiClemente participated in Winter Carnival, alternative reading week and O-Week and dance activities.

“She was in Fashion ‘n Motion, she was an Icebreaker on the Blue Cavaliers with me last year and she’s also been a dance instructor for the Athletic Complex showcase for a few years,” her friend Nicole Wolff said.

DiClemente’s friends and roommates had been raising money for cancer research throughout her battle, including hosting events in Toronto and at Waterloo’s Cameo nightclub on Oct. 5, raising a total of approximately $40,000. The fundraising efforts were initiated by DiClemente when she was in remission earlier this year. During her treatment in the U.S., she maintained regular contact with her friends in Waterloo over Skype.

“I think she’ll be remembered most for her positive attitude,” Wolff said. “She always had a smile on her face throughout her entire battle with leukemia – she was so positive and showed such strength. Throughout everything she was an inspiration to everyone around her and we’ve all grown because of it.”

DiClemente’s family will be consulted about the possibility of holding a memorial at the university. “If her family expresses interest in a campus-specific memorial service, that’s something we will accommodate and have students drop by,” dean of students Leanne Holland Brown said.

Holland Brown also suggested that DiClemente’s degree could be awarded posthumously, though that would also be up to the discretion of her family and the university.

Two buses chartered by the WLU students’ union were made available for students to attend the funeral Tuesday morning in Oakville.

“There were a lot of Laurier people there and I know a lot of people felt really close to her in the community,” Wolff said, noting the response from members of the university community to recent fundraising efforts and scrapbooks that were compiled with messages to DiClemente.

“I know people were signing them with ‘I’ve never met you but I’ve heard nothing but great things and I wish I had the opportunity to meet you’,” she said. Over 900 people attended the visitation Nov. 15.

In lieu of flowers, DiClemente requested that donations be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. Holland Brown said that donations will be collected and a card of condolence will be available to sign in the dean of students’ office.