SOMERSET COUNTY—The expression here today and gone tomorrow is bittersweet for the Van Deusen family.
“Be thankful for each day you have to share with family and friends,” said Rebecca Van Deusen.
Her daughter, 17-year-old Olivia was killed last June after a car accident along Route 56 in Windber. Her son (Olivia’s younger brother) was also in the car but survived. Olivia was a Somerset High School student who loved soccer; she was your all-American teenage girl with a promising future, a life taken far too soon.
“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think of her,” said Van Deusen. “She had this sense of adventure, this eagerness to learn, travel, and meet people. Most of all, her heart was for others, and she was a gentle and kind person.”
Van Deusen said this has been the hardest year of her and her family’s life. But during this difficult time, the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming.
“The community support was so amazing and generous to our family. People wanted to help out and we received meals, cards, monetary donations, and other forms of support.”
To help keep their daughter’s memory alive, the Van Deusen family decided to open up a scholarship in her honor. It is now one of several scholarship funds through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies at the high school.
“Starting this scholarship was one way that we could continue to honor Olivia while giving back to the community,” said Van Deusen.
“The loss of this vibrant young woman a year ago is still deeply felt by her family, her friends, and the community,” said Pam Tokar-Ickes, Director, Somerset County Community Funds. “When her mother wanted the memorial scholarship fund in place so it could first be awarded to members of Olivia’s graduating class, the Community Foundation was committed to her goal.”
Olivia would be a senior this year and, as difficult as it has been, Van Deusen said she is looking forward to awarding a scholarship to one of her classmates in her honor.
“Olivia impacted every life that she had contact with in some way or another,” said Van Deusen. “I am very proud and excited to honor her with this scholarship as she will continue to have an impact on others.”
Setting up this scholarship in Olivia’s memory was never something the Van Deusen family imagined they would be doing, but they feel it’s something they can do to give back while remembering their daughter; it would be something she would want.
“I miss her so much, her smile, everything,” said Van Deusen. “I want people to know what a great big sister she was, her laughter, the way her freckles popped out of her face when she was in the sun, even how she didn’t like icing on her cake. Those are the simple little things I don’t want to forget or those who knew her to forget.”
The first Olivia Van Deusen Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to four 2016 Somerset High School seniors.
“This year, because of Olivia’s love of soccer, the recipients will be senior soccer players. However, we anticipate that for the next few years, the recipients will be a variety of students. The fund has already surpassed what we had imagined and we look forward to its potential in the future.”