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Notre Dame community remembers Theresa Sagartz

| Wednesday, March 16, 2016

“She’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met — and she’s that way with everyone,” junior Erica Tabor said.

“I think that’s the reason why so many people are hurting through this loss. She touched anybody that she came in contact with, whether it was sharing with them in laughter or helping them out with schoolwork. She just related to anybody.”

WEB another one 20160310,_Rachel O'Grady | The Observer

A candle display at the Grotto honors junior Theresa Sagartz, who died last week from natural causes related to a chronic medical condition.

Theresa Sagartz, a junior and former resident of Pangborn Hall, died last week in her off-campus apartment from natural causes related to a chronic medical condition. Sagartz was originally from Albuquerque, N.M., and was pursuing a degree in chemistry.

“She was incredibly loyal and caring for her friends, which is definitely one of the things I’ve admired most about her,” Matt Schaefer, Sagartz’s boyfriend, said. “It was always kind of amazing to me how she was always able to put them first.”

‘So entirely giving’

Tabor, Sagartz’s roommate, said Sagartz loved taking care of others, regardless of whether they were a close friend or a complete stranger.

“We would joke and say, ‘Theresa, you could get emotionally attached to a rock,’” she said. “When we lived off-campus this year, I don’t think I cooked us dinner once because she was the house mom who just loved taking care of people.”

Senior Taryn Gutierrez, who knew Sagartz in middle school and high school, said Sagartz would rearrange an already busy schedule to check in with one of her friends or family members if she thought they needed company.

“Theresa was hyper-aware of what others needed, sometimes before we even knew what we needed,” Gutierrez said. “She was so entirely giving of her time, her wisdom and her witty charm. Her laugh was contagious and possibly the best remedy she could offer to any ailing situation.”

Junior Clare Carmody said Sagartz helped her transition when she transferred from Saint Mary’s to Notre Dame last year.

“I had known Theresa since freshman year. She didn’t care that I went to Saint Mary’s. She was always very friendly and open with me,” she said. “And when I got in, she completely welcomed me with open arms.”

‘Ready for everything’

During her senior year of high school, Sagartz planned to attend the Air Force Academy when she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, Gutierrez said. Sagartz was forced to withdraw from the Academy and instead came to Notre Dame.

“Nothing could get that girl down,” she said. “Her faith, coupled with an unrivaled drive for life, made her one of the strongest people I knew.”

Sagartz could always be counted upon for a spontaneous trip to LaFortune Student Center or the dining halls, junior Christine Kager said.

“She was also just ready for everything,” Kager said. “Even if she didn’t necessarily want to do something but you asked, she would be ready to go in five minutes. You didn’t question it at all. She just wanted to spend time with you.”

Junior Maggie McDevitt said Sagartz had a love for exploring the outdoors, especially in her home state of New Mexico.

“She was very adventurous. She loved hiking, camping — she loved New Mexico,” McDevitt said. “She just thought Albuquerque was the best place in the world.”

Schaefer said Sagartz always had a witty response at the ready.

“She was very funny and didn’t get caught up in a lot of the typical things,” he said. “Right after she turned 21, she was planning to go to her ‘first Feve,’ which was Halloween week. Instead of the usual college-aged girl Halloween outfit, she decided to wear a pizza onesie.”

‘A passion for learning’

McDevitt said Sagartz was “secretly a total genius.”

“She’s the kind of person that was in really hard classes — she’s the only reason I made it through chemistry freshman year — but you never knew it,” she said. “I don’t know when she did all her work.”

Tabor said Sagartz was always asking questions, about academic subjects, people’s feelings and every topic in between.

“Whether it was baseball team stats or asking me about accounting … she would just sit and ask hundreds of questions, just to hear what we know. And then she would remember it all,” she said.

At Notre Dame, Sagartz served as secretary for the College Republicans and worked as a student manager in LaFortune Student Center. She was also devoted to research projects she did on campus, Tabor said.

“In the final weeks, she was really dedicated to doing a research study on her disease because there wasn’t much known about it. It’s a very rare disease,” she said. “One of the last things she did was participate in this study to help people learn more about it.”

Sr. Mary Donnelly, Sagartz’s former rector in Pangborn Hall, said Sagartz was passionate about everything she did.

“[Theresa] was a young woman who was filled with life and energy and enthusiasm, and this spirit was contagious,” she said. “… She was determined to do her best at all times and in all things.”

‘Unapologetically herself’

Junior Heather Lennon, who lived with Sagartz her freshman and sophomore year, said Sagartz stayed true to her convictions in every aspect of her life.

“She is just so unapologetically herself,” Lennon said. “She’s 100 percent who she is — and she’s not only okay with that, but she loves that.

“You could have a 30-second conversation with her and still feel like you knew her, just because she was so upfront and genuine.”

Schaefer said this openness made Sagartz an easy person to talk to and confide in.

“She was confident, in a very charming way, about who she was,” he said. “She had great stories, but she was also a great listener.”

McDevitt said Sagartz was never afraid to express herself and her beliefs.

“She knew what she believed, and she stood up for it all the time. She didn’t compromise,” she said. “She wasn’t mean or aggressive about it. She would just say, ‘This is what I believe, and this is what I think is the truth. I’m going to defend that.’”

‘This too shall pass’

McDevitt said Sagartz always wore a ring with the words “this too shall pass” — her favorite quote — inscribed in it.

“It wasn’t just that things will get better, like ‘this bad thing will pass,’” she said. “It meant even the good things are fleeting, so you have to enjoy them. They’re not going to last forever, so while they’re here be present and really enjoy them.”

Sagartz lived out this mantra, especially in recent months, Tabor said.

“Something that has really helped me … is that when Theresa passed, she was the happiest she’s ever been,” Tabor said.“She was in love, she was in good places with all her friends, she had a plan for what she was going to do when she got out of college.

“She was just so happy, and she had so much love to give. We just need to keep that happiness and love and carry it with us.”

Sagartz’s bright personality brought others happiness as well, Lennon said.

“She is the most loving, naturally beautiful, caring, kind, hilarious, best friend in the entire world. She is just a beautiful person inside and out,” she said.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a junior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's spending the semester in Rome, trying to eat lots of pizza and speak like an Italian. Katie hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota and is a loyal Walsh Hall resident on campus. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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