'She just had a heart for people:' UNC junior Vincey Varghese died Wednesday

She was like a daughter to her youth pastors, a friend to everyone she met, a coach to the youth at her church and a Tar Heel at heart — right down to the UNC blanket laid across her in her casket.

Varghese, a junior biology major, died Wednesday from complications following surgery to remove a brain tumor. She was 21. Varghese is survived by her parents, Daniel and Shaila, and younger sister, Princy, and remembered by her roommate Julia McManus and many others.

“Vincey was the person who made UNC my home,” McManus said in a Facebook message. “I can’t imagine going back to UNC without her or not having her in my life, but I know I’m a better person just for having known her.”

Troy Davis, Varghese’s youth pastor at Calvary Church in Greensboro, called her his “little Indian daughter” — he has no daughter of his own — and said she was like family to all who knew her.

“She never met a stranger,” said Holly Davis, youth administrator and fine arts coordinator at the church. “For anybody that didn’t get to meet her, I wish they had because she would have brightened anybody’s day.”

Varghese remained active in her parish and youth community during college, returning as a coach in the fine arts ministry of Calvary Church. To the Davises and others who knew her during high school, Varghese was the girl studying for AP exams during youth group because her commitment to both education and faith was unwavering.

“She was a very determined person and had goals, and she went for them,” Holly Davis said. “She was just so bright and so driven.”

Varghese was scheduled to take the MCAT this summer. She dreamed of becoming a pediatrician and working at orphanages in her native India.

“She just had a heart for people,” said Matthew Taylor, a junior at UNC-Greensboro and one of Varghese’s closest friends. “She shared love with every single person that she met.”

Taylor and Varghese were friends for 10 years. He was with her the night before she died. One of the hardest things about losing her, he said, was how quickly it all happened.

“We didn’t have the time,” he said. “It just happened so fast, so it’s a different kind of grieving ... It’s such a fresh hurt.”

Even after her diagnosis in late January, Taylor said, Varghese remained positive and focused on others more than herself.

“I’ve never met someone more selfless,” he said. “She knew she wasn’t fine, but she would never ever want to admit that because the only thing that would truly upset her is to feel like she was upsetting someone else, and that’s what was amazing about her.”

More than 500 people mourned at Varghese’s funeral Saturday, Troy Davis said. After 20 years as a pastor, he’d never seen anything like it. The church already has plans to honor her with ‘V’ patches, signed and framed jerseys and a memorial wall.

Those who knew Varghese well knew her as relentless, dedicated and loving. But even those who didn’t know her as well saw glimpses of the rare person she was.

“She’s 5-foot-nothing but you knew where she was at in the room,” Troy Davis said. “She just had this magnetic personality about her.”

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