Danielle Gucciardo’s vigil Wednesday night was one full of remembrance and celebration.
The Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center held the vigil in front of the Charles V. Park Library, and at the end, turned on the song “One More Time” by Daft Punk, encouraging everyone to dance, candles in hand.
It was the most fitting way to remember Gucciardo’s life, which was full of dancing.
Gucciardo, a 2011 Central Michigan University alum and Peace Corps volunteer, died Saturday from injuries resulting from being struck by an automobile in Uganda. Gucciardo, 23, had been a Peace Corps volunteer since January 17. During that time, the Woodhaven native worked in Gulu, Uganda, where she taught chemistry and biology.
While at CMU, Gucciardo worked with the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center on alternative breaks for three years and served as a site leader on various programs.
Lakeshore senior Laura Trombley was once with Gucciardo on an out-of-state volunteer trip, when at 3 a.m., something spontaneous happened.
“It was three in the morning, and the Spice Girls come on, and she just started singing at the top of her lungs and dancing,” Trombley said. “It wasn’t the most pleasant sound in the world, especially to the people sleeping in the back, but it was the coolest thing I have ever seen. It was three in the morning, and she didn’t care. She was dancing to Spice Girls.”
Kathryn Young, a Muskegon graduate student, said that dancing was Gucciardo’s way of living life.
“I think Danielle would just dance whenever anything bad or awkward would happen. Even when it was just quiet,” Kendall said. “It was just her way of breaking the ice.”
Kendall said at the vigil that she often imagines Gucciardo dancing her entire way to class while she was at CMU.
Gucciardo graduated from CMU in December 2011 with a degree in biology and environmental studies. Residence Hall Director Steely Pegg, who moderated the vigil, said environmentalism and nature were some of her greatest passions, and she wasn’t afraid to proclaim herself as a “tree-hugger.”
Daniel Breitenbach, a White Lake senior, said her greatest passion, though, might have been dinosaurs. He recalled another instance on volunteer trip, again in the middle of a long drive.
“We drove past DinoLand,” Breitenbach said. “She flipped.”
Pegg said she found Gucciardo’s ability to make any negative situation into a positive situation to be inspiring.
“Something I always admired about her was her ability to smile,” Pegg said. “And her ability to make lemonade out of any lemons, no matter how sour they were.”
Debi LeSage, a Canton resident and girlfriend to Danielle’s father, Joe Gucciardo, said they both found the ceremony touching.
“It was a celebration of her life,” LeSage said. “It was moving to see it touch so many people. I really think she’s up in heaven dancing along.”