The loss of Holland senior Kelly Markatos rocked the Central Michigan University community, but among those who will miss her the most are her best friends and former roommates Alyssa and Jenna Szymanski.
Markatos knew everything about the Szymanksi sisters: The sound their footsteps made as they walked into the West Campus Village apartment she shared with Jenna; the sound their fists made as they knocked on her door. After all, they had practically been like sisters for the past four years.
If it was her walking in, Markatos always made sure they knew it, too.
“If we were at the door, she’d always ask, ‘Who is it?’ even though she knew exactly which one of us was there,” said Jenna, a senior from Troy. “When she came in she’d always yell, ‘Kelly’s home!’ She just always wanted you to know that she was around. She never wanted to be alone.”
Markatos, a 22-year-old public relations major, died Tuesday morning after being found unresponsive by her roommates.
Her parents, John and Lori Markatos, remembered her as “a princess and an angel. Their beloved,” according to an obituary issued by the Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home and published by the Holland Sentinel.
Since Tuesday, an outpouring of condolences has come from just about everywhere – from those who cared for her like a sister, to the ones who said they were just fortunate enough to meet her once.
Markatos touched all of them, whether she knew it or not. At her vigil, which was organized Wednesday evening outside the Bovee University Center, nearly 75 CMU students, faculty, friends and complete strangers lit candles in her honor.
It was a living testament to the radiant personality Markatos had shined on all of them with open arms and a beaming smile.
“She was always upbeat, and so bubbly,” Alyssa said. “She was so generous, too. She’d give you her last penny. She had the biggest smile with the brightest white teeth.”
The apartment she leaves behind has become a beacon of support, the interior decorated with homemade cards, bouquets of flowers and food items dropped off by neighbors and loved ones.
But, for the Szymanski sisters, being at the apartment is like reliving a nightmare.
“We had the kind of friendship where we had been together every single day at school,” Alyssa said, weeping between words. “She used to send me text messages every morning. I miss those texts so much. I feel so lonely and empty. I don’t have my other half.”
The passing of Markatos has undoubtedly shocked and bewildered the Szymanksi sisters and Markatos’ family, especially as they wait to hear what it was that took their dear friend from them.
The Mount Pleasant Police Department has yet to release an exact cause of death.
For the moment, however, Alyssa and Jenna are trying to remember the good times they had with Markatos.
Kelly had met Alyssa first, in one of their shared business courses.
Markatos initially wanted to go the route of management but quickly found that she hated it, Alyssa said.
“Public relations was more of her passion,” Alyssa said. “She loved it. She’d always come up to us and ask us to look at her projects. She was always so proud of them.”
This summer, Markatos joined Alyssa in East Hampton, N.Y., while the eldest Szymanski sister worked an internship. Markatos had just finished an internship of her own.
“She’s going to leave a big hole in people’s hearts,” said Jean Szymanski, Jenna and Alyssa’s mother, who was at their apartment Thursday night helping her daughters through the difficult time.
Visitation and funeral arrangements for Markatos are scheduled for 3-9 p.m., today and 11 a.m. Saturday. Both the visitation and funeral service are scheduled to take place at Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home, located at 315 E. 16th St., Holland, Mich. Markatos will be buried at Lakeshore Cemetery.
Donations in Markatos’ memory can be made to the Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity.