KENNEWICK – Lacey Jo Rosenbaum could light up a room with her smile and quick-witted jokes.
But friends of the 22-year-old Southridge High graduate also knew if they had a problem, they could count on Lacey Jo — or LJ as her many of her friends called her — to listen and offer advice.
Now, Lacey Jo’s friends and family will have to lean on each other as they cope with her sudden death.
“People always said she was an older soul. She was everybody’s counselor,” said her mother, Lynda Rosenbaum, on Thursday. “She seemed to be more of a friend sometimes than people were to her, but she didn’t care. She gave unconditionally, always. She always cared about everyone’s troubles.”
The Gonzaga University student died Tuesday night at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane from a blood clot following knee surgery for a torn cartilage, according to the Spokane Medical Examiner’s Office.
She’d needed the March 9 surgery after getting hurt playing volleyball, her mother said. She had taken aspirin for the first week, because if a blood clot develops it usually happens in the first few days, Lynda Rosenbaum said.
Lacey Jo’s father, Keith, was at the Spokane university with her when she died. Her parents had been taking turns helping Lacey get to classes while she recovered.
“Her last words were, ’I’m fine. I’m fine,’ ” Lynda Rosenbaum said.
Lacey Jo was a business administration student majoring in human resources management. She tutored math to disadvantaged high school students in Spokane through the YWCA and spent six summers working at the Y in the Tri-Cities, helping develop a sports camp with another friend, her mother said.
“She had a way with kids who had a hard life,” she said. “She really thought her gift to the world was that she would be a high school math teacher or counselor and she wanted to coach. She loved kids.”
But Lacey Jo decide to major in business because she first wanted to try to make it in the business world, her mother said.
Lacey Jo was finishing the last few weeks of her college career, and was set to graduate from Gonzaga on May 9. Her mother said the university president told her they were going to honor Lacey Jo with her degree.
Professors have also called to tell the Rosenbaums what a delight it was to have their daughter in their classes.
The 2006 Southridge High grad got an academic scholarship to attend Gonzaga. She was thinking about leaving after her freshman year, but girls on her dorm floor started a campaign to “Keep Lacey Jo at GU,” having people sign petitions and creating a Facebook page to encourage her to stay, her mother said.
“That just explains who she is,” her mother said, commenting on how people who had known her less than a year banded together to keep her at their school.
Lynda Rosenbaum said her daughter was a great student, very organized and artistic. She also played volleyball, basketball and softball and was on the Southridge High team in 2005 that was the first-ever to make it to state.
Molly Chafe was a pitcher on that squad and Lacey Jo was a catcher.
“Pitchers and catchers share a special bond and Lacey and I have that,” Chafe said. “We clicked on the field and off the field. She was kind of a natural leader.”
Chafe, who graduated from Dartmouth College last year and is back home in Kennewick, said they stayed in touch while they were away in college and even had a chance to meet and catch up over this past Christmas break.
“She always had a presence about her. She had a wonderful personality,” Chafe said. “She always had a great attitude and always had positive things to say. It’s really a shame that she’s gone.”
Lacey Jo loved animals — the family has three pets — sports, traveling and having fun.
“She was just a crack-up. She was joyous. She was just a smart-aleck and quick-witted. Just hysterical and the life of the party,” her mother said. “We were planning a vacation for this summer and she said she didn’t care where it was unless there was a beach and she could have a little umbrella in her drink.”
She has two older half-brothers and stepsister and adored being Aunt Lacey to her nieces and nephews, her mother said.
An educational memorial account has been set up at HAPO credit union. Donations can be made at any branch in Lacey Jo Rosenbaum’s name. Her parents are making plans to use any donations for a scholarship or to donate something for the softball fields at Southridge in her honor.
A viewing is set from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Hillcrest Memorial Center in Kennewick. A funeral service is at 4 p.m. Tuesday, with a reception to follow, at South Hills Church, 3700 W. 27th Ave., Kennewick.
Lacey Jo’s life will also be celebrated with a memorial Mass at 9:10 p.m. Wednesday at the Gonzaga University Chapel.