When Diane Hayes approached Laura Rozo a few weeks ago about holding a memorial service in her honor, Rozo responded, “OK, but no tears.”
Students, faculty, friends and family members gathered in the Pit Wednesday afternoon to celebrate Rozo’s life in the way she had planned — with salsa dancing and music.
“She wanted a celebration. She wanted it outside in the daytime, ideally in her favorite place on campus,” said Hayes, a close friend and senior scholar adviser of the Morehead-Cain Scholars Program, of which Rozo was a member.
Rozo, a junior from Colombia, died last week after a long battle with stage IV rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
“Laura’s time came because she had accomplished everything she was on this earth to accomplish, and God was ready to have her back,” said Erika Posso, her mother, with the help of a translator.
“It would have been easy for her to give up, but she never gave up. She fought until the end.”
Friends and family members spoke of her sense of humor and the legacy she left behind. She was a student speaker at the TEDxUNC conference February.
“Laura will always remain in our hearts as a courageous, intelligent, caring and loving sister and daughter,” her brother Jacobo Rozo Posso said.
Hayes said she admires Rozo’s balance of playfulness and passion.
“She inspires me to live and work with purpose, vigor and joy,” she said.
When John Strader, a physician assistant at UNC Hospitals, first met Rozo, he asked what she was studying.
“She said, ‘I’m studying to be the most powerful woman in the world.’ And I think she was able to accomplish that,” he said.
Bob Epting, a UNC alumnus and pilot, said he and his friends had agreed to teach Rozo how to fly an airplane at her request, but that she taught them even more.
“All this is her continuing lesson to those of us with too much time, too many distractions and never enough appreciation to value our dreams,” he said.
Chancellor Holden Thorp said he taught Rozo in an Economics 125 class along with professor Buck Goldstein.
“I just have to say that of all the students I’ve known, I’ve learned as much about life from Laura Rozo as anybody I’ve ever taught,” he said.
With the help of a translator, her father Cesar Rozo thanked all of her friends for being there, adding, “It is very easy to see why she loved this place so much.”
Junior Chenxi Yu, a close friend of Laura Rozo’s, said her wishes were fulfilled.
“This cannot be more perfect,” she said. “This is exactly what she wanted.”
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