Those close to third-year social work student Andrea Van Blaricom, 23, say they will remember her smile more than anything else

Social work student appeared ready to tackle life

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By Natalie Alcoba

As a child, Andrea Van Blaricom’s most prized possession was her Mama Smurf doll.

When her grandmother got sick, however, she was was willing to part with it, hoping it would somehow help her feel better.

“She wouldn’t take it back,” says Andrea’s mother, Heather Johnston, 52. “She was very caring and determined even when she was young.”

At Andrea’s funeral in her hometown of Kingston, Ont. last Saturday, her family placed two Smurf dolls on top of her coffin to remember how her caring nature touched lives.

The third-year Ryerson social work student took her own life Oct. 22. She was 23.

Everyone who remembers her unassuming manner was drawn to one thing  — her smile. It was that smile, said her father, 54-year-old social worker Sheridan Van Blaricom, that illustrated her diligence and perseverance.

“She worked very hard to overcome any difficulties she might have had,” he said.

Friends say the blond-haired, blue-eyed petite who loved eating nachos and drinking Coke at 9 a.m. seemed to relish the life she had ahead of her.

“She was the only one that was actually looking forward to graduation,” says Ayah McKhail, 21, a fellow third-year social work student. “She couldn’t wait to throw her hat up in the air.”

McKhail said no one has left a mark on her life like Andrea did, not surprising since Andrea wanted to be remembered as someone who made a difference in the world.

The Van Blaricom family was overwhelmed by the support show by the Ryerson community after Andrea’s death. More than 300 people paid their respects to Andrea’s memory at the James Reid Funeral Home in Kingston, many of them faculty and students who travelled from Toronto.

Those who attended the funeral wrote messages about Andrea on memory cards. Her father says he has spent many quiet moments going through the memories others have of his daughter.

“We only hope that Andrea knows how much she was loved and respected,” he says.

Andrea leaves behind her parents, 21-year-old brother Grant, and 19-year-old sister, Marian.

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